Mouths sealed in a deafening silence, bearing the weight of untold stories and unspoken truths: no words can be expressed and even the most extreme howling bring any relief.
These closed lips are akin to an inner scream, muffled, buried under layers of survival and success.
They embody an internal struggle, a strange mix of feelings, between melancholy and joy, nostalgia and future, anger and peace, hatred and forgiveness.
A silence of stones, a conversation without words or noise. Words no longer exist, thoughts and ideas are at a stand still, the moment is frozen, and nothing moves, not even the smell of a breeze.
Only their gaze reflects the past, a past that they have’t lived, a past that they carry from another generation, of another time...”
Armenians 2006 - Present
Silver gelatin print on baryta paper
25 x 25 cm
Selection from over 200 portraits taken in: Damascus, Alepo, Paris, Cairo, Berlin, Alexandria, Istanbul, Beyrouth, Los Angeles, Geneva, London and New York.
Paris, May 2007
Meeting Armenians from city to city, settling down somewhere, getting together, sharing memories, feelings, and stories, seizing this passage from past to present, just through a simple take. Reuniting, through face-to-face encounters, the greatest number of Armenians dispersed by History. This is the path I have decided to undertake, where one ceases to look in the past and turns to the identity of the present."
The project started in Damascus in 2006 with three portraits – of my mother, our neighbor, a humble tailor, and a family friend, a jeweler. Upon my return to Paris, I continued taking photos of Armenians: friends, people I knew or came across, and public figures. I mounted my first exhibition with twenty-four such portraits for display.
I owe the beginning of it all to the photo of my mother. With her gaze transposed through my lens, it was as if I suddenly remembered. She is the one who taught me to consider: “What is it to be Armenian?” The power of survival, generosity, and the strength to overcome so many things that come your way...
My father, a Syrian journalist, also played an essential role in this identity shaping. He had learned Armenian and was committed to spreading the Armenian culture in Syria and in other Arab countries.
I had realized with my first portrait the necessity of going back to my roots. The work I wish to accomplish at present represents as much of a duty for me as that of seeking the pleasure of the eye. It is for this reason that I have decided to roam, from one city to another, looking to meet with Armenians. My approach is to communicate through my photos the hope of reuniting languages, unleashing unspoken words without any compromise or misunderstanding; creating the urge and the desire in each one to rediscover, maybe through their childhood memories, what binds them to their own identity.
The exhibition will represent a caravan of memories, seeking to, in its own way, find the route to Armenia.
Captured by the gaze, a face-to-face encounter, without talking, without writing: photography is silent and its silence reflects one of the most genuine languages that exist.