Garo Keshishian’s diasporic visions

 

Garo Keshishian. Catalogue cover. 2002

I had never heard of Garo Keshishian. Nor seen any of his work. And it’s probably going to be a long time until I DO see his amazing photographs in the flesh.

It’s funny how randomly one can discover things if only one searches where it is least expected. Ebay has provided more ‘Oh My God… I can’t believe it’ moments than I can remember. The accidental ‘stumble’ upon a listing of Keshishian’s book on Ebay. wasn’t exactly a ‘eureka’ moment, but I hit the ‘Buy It Now’ button within two seconds.
The book in question is the only major survey of Keshishian’s art, published in conjunction with a retrospective exhibition held in 2002 in Venice. Beautifully designed and printed, the catalogue includes extensive essays in English and Italian by Georgi Lozanov, Sergio Poggianella and Rumen Serafimov. The photographs date from 1977 to 2001 and include Keshishian’s work in fashion, street, documentary and portraiture genres. I must admit to having a slight case of jaw-dropping when I went through the fashion works – which are only tangentially ‘fashion’. A surreal amalgamation of old-school studio photography, nude, portraiture, S&M and Helmut Newton glamour, these works have an unusual, unique – dare I say ‘Bulgarian’ edge to them that combines the abject and the grotesque with a sense of bohemian cool. Yes, kind of like that Czech guy, Saudek, but infinetly more profound and organic.

Keshishian, Garo. Soldiers at hard labour. 1981-1994

I won’t go overboard with analysis. Suffice to say that Keshishian who was born in 1946 in Varna, represents a summit of diasporic Armenian photography in Bulgaria, which has an extraordinarily rich history that stretches over a century. Keshishian’s engagement with his Armenian heritage is valuable in itself and the last part of the album consists of over 40 portraits of Bulgarian-Armenians which are deeply touching in their simplicity and emotional density. Let’s hope that Keshishian – the greatest Bulgarian photographer of modern times according to the writers – one day is revealed to viewers in Armenia as well (hopefully while he is still alive and kicking).
VG

Future classics: two important photographs by Anahit Hayrapetyan

Anahit Hayrapetyan. Funeral of Andranik Margaryan. 2007. type C photograph. © Anahit Hayrapetyan

While some of the most remarkable work done in the photographic medium is without a doubt by press photographers (from Robert Capa to Sebastian Salgado and Annie Leibovitz), their place amidst museum collections is not necessarily guaranteed. The primary issue lies in the simple fact that the agenda of the press photographer is documentation and reportage. Few photographers working in the field have the time or the means to articulate more complex ideas that engage with theoretical or formal frameworks, which has increasingly become a pre-requisite for gallery representation. Yet, the documentary photographer is in a way the supreme professional, liable to make choices and decisions on a spot. Their responsibilities – both ethical and moral – are often greater and graver. In the face of much post-modern or post-structural criticism and theory in regards to the photographic image, the documentarian has to preserve a belief in the idea that their work purports to represent some sense of truth. This is a conundrum which can only be resolved with a profound understanding of craft, a clearly articulated individual approach and an awareness of wider discourses surrounding photography.

Recently Lusadaran’s collections were enriched by two type C photographs by one of the most prominent documentary photographers working in Armenia, Anahit Hayrapetyan. Born in 1981 in Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), Hayrapetyan came to photography after deciding to abandon a career in IT. She was a student of noted photojournalist Ruben Mangasaryan, whose workshops between 2005 and 2008 were an important milestone in the history of the medium in this country, engendering an entire generation of talented practitioners. Hayrapetyan has since gone on to work for www.eurasianet.org, is a participant of numerous international exhibitions and a winner of a number of prestigious awards. Most recently, she was awarded Lusadaran’s first prize for photography for her 2011 image ‘Corridor. Metsamor nuclear station’, which was included in the exhibition ‘Industrial Symphony: photography and the post-industrial age’.

Anahit Hayrapetyan. Chrism blessing, Armenia. 2006-2008. type C photograph. © Anahit Hayrapetyan

The initial influence of Mangasaryan’s painterly vision was apparent in Hayrapetyan’s early portfolios. Her works made between 2006 and 2009 straddled an edge between documentation and almost expressionist experimentation with the image. The two photographs donated by Hayrapetyan to Lusadaran represent the height of this experimental phase in her career, before she turned to a more detached mode of objective photography. While newer works like ‘Corridor…’ (also in Lusadaran’s collection) focus on context and absence, the subject is very much front and centre in photographs such as ‘Funeral of Andranik Margaryan’ 2007 and ‘Chrism blessing’ 2006-08.

In both images the photographer relates the experience and significance of the depicted events by capturing the atmosphere and the mood – a hallmark of her work in general. Hayrapetian displays a mastery of compositional devices which are used adroitly for visual punctuation and as a form textual shorthand. The high angles flatten the space and create tense spatial relationships between the various pictorial elements. A sense of ambiguity and mystery permeates these scenes of religious mysticism and death. Despite their extraordinary expressive power, the photographs remain ambiguous and open-ended. The viewer is compelled to meditate and make their own deductions regarding the intricate network of emotions and ideas which are evoked but never enforced in Hayrapetyan’s photographs (especially in the absence of captions).

This gift will significantly expand our burgeoning collection of contemporary Armenian photography, which remains in part, strongly committed to the best traditions of objective documentation and social relevance.

Glenn Sloggett: ‘A white trash love story’. Review

 

THE POETRY OF JUNK

Sloggett. Even the name has strange phonetic reverences that call to mind associations of the discarded and the refused. Perhaps it’s the roots – slog and get – a process of slow, careful gleaning that throw me into a tangential reverie in front of the works by Melbourne’s photo-poet of the unloved.

Before you think that I have slipped and fell into a psychobubble, let me assure you that the formal rigour and conceptual consistency of Glen Sloggett’s exploration of his urban environment is devoid of the kind of cheap, hard-hitting sentimentality that plagues so much of so-called autobiographical mode of contemporary photography.

Yet, the photographs in his latest show are indeed deeply personal, emotionally felt experiences of the energies contained in material objects and banal everyday situations. If Sloggett’s previous series such as ‘Cheaper and Deeper’, contained a more pronounced critique of alienation inherent in the suburban culture, the works shown as part of the ‘A white trash (lost) love story’ series at the Stills Gallery, Sydney in February are devoid of such sharp, merciless outlook.

The style and format of the photographs is the same as in Sloggett’s earlier works: the images are large (80x80cm), square, printed with an abandunt white border, compositions luck obvious artistry, recalling snapshots, yet exhibit overwhelming detail. Colour is vibrant, almost kitschy in this case hinting at the hidden melodramatic subtext behind much of the imagery. People are conspicuous by their absence. Thus, for the photographer, every element found on the streets becomes a kind of a still-life: an almost dead memento for an event that is about to pass into obscurity.  As the artist himself stated ‘no matter where I go, I always find places and environments that are in the process of falling down…I want to capture the last signs of optimism before inevitable disrepair.’

What is touching about these recent works is the evidence of the lone presence of the artist, made obvious by the intrusive camera flash. The startling harshness of the flash, forcefully singles out ubiquitous elements like a graffiti on a wall or a discarded piece of cardboard, from their everyday context. It is almost as if the photographer wants to exhume the loneliness contained in these unloved things and let the audience find a reflection of their own trashy love story. As such, the series becomes almost cathartic. Indeed, by concentrating on things discarded and refused by society, Sloggett asks us to pause and contemplate on the passage of time, mortality but also the extremely touching pleas for communication and connection (like the scrawl in wet concrete which says ‘U R ALONE’) that we tend to overlook in the rush flow of our daily lives.
The strength of Sloggett’s images lies in the photographer’s ability to retain the presence of these objects and environments, while simultaneously transforming them into metaphors.

Sloggett, who won the prestigious John and Margaret Baker fellowship for an emerging artist in 2001, has been widely exhibited in Australia as well being included in surveys of Australian photography overseas. He is also represented in major museum collections such as the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Despite this relative prominence on the art scene, the photographer continues to work in a factory manufacturing plastic vacuum moldings on the outskirts of suburban Melbourne, remaining vitally connected to the environment that feeds his art.

Glenn Sloggett’s one man show ‘A white trash love story’ was held at the Stills Gallery, Sydney, between February 1-25, 2012.

VG

World Press Photo: selling cheap emotion?

 

Photography was the most pervasive media of the 20th century and it continues to be so in this new one as well. Sifting the internet for interesting, relevant and the trully remarkable can be a monumental task – drowning as it is with countless websites on the subject. Starting a blog on the subject within Lusadaran’s website seemed an inevitability as it gives us an opportunity to respond with more immediacy that the online environment demands. So here is our first post and what better way to kick-start than a look at the 2012 World Press Photo awards.

Samuel Aranda. WPP 1st prize for 2012

The award, which has been given to the most remarkable news photographs since 1955 by the independent foundation based in Amsterdam has been seen as something of a beacon for photojournalism. Museums and curators often scoff at its populist drive, but its success with people all around the world is unquestionable. It would be understatement to say that any news photographer worth his salt quests after the main award. Not only is it the most prestigeous of its kind but above and beyond everything it offers an instant celebrity status for the photographer and the kind of publicity that money could never buy. This is particularly vital in the age of the digital, as it becomes harder and harder to make a buck by being a professional photographer (too many people are doing it you see).

As a voice of authority WPP award often stands for quality. It validates the truth and the power of the chosen images in the eyes of the public, conditioning in part the way we learn to read and asses images we see in the news. Needless to say that this is problematic in too many ways. The lack of a critical forum and the entire competitive framework create a compromising context for these photographs.

The competition always boasts at least some remarkable photographs, but in recent years the line-up of winners has exposed a formulaic preset according to which images are accorded their awards. A lot has been written about this year’s winner – a photograph by the Spanish photographer Samuel Aranda taken for the New York Times. This image of an Islamic woman, fully clad in a burka and embracing her wounded son has raised the ire of critics and bloggers all over the town.

Aranda seems to have captured ‘the decisive moment’ (both visually and thematically, as the photograph is meant to represent the Arab Spring uprising in Yemen) yet it is as far removed from the Bressonian notion as a photograph could ever be. Its overtly universalist appeal is so obvious as to be practically poster-like. For Cartier-Bresson, the moment always resided in a wider context through which we could recognise the importance, indeed the singularity of the chosen second. Instead Aranda dispenses with all but a painterly void, presenting his monumental subjects outside of time or… it seems place. Despite what the caption tells us (not a lot), we can not perceive these two figures as anything but ciphers.

Paolo Woods. Radio Haiti. 3rd prize in Daily Life category

The metaphorical and literal transposition of ‘Pieta’ composition upon the non-Christian subject smacks as a particularly off-handed attempt at taming the ‘other’. To this writer, this appears like a thinly vailed reboot of an Orientalist fantasy, a kind of Western taxonomy of pain and suffering conjured for our pleasure. Yes, I meant pleasure. For when we look at this photograph we can see nothing but a reflection of our own real or projected pain. The image acts as a catharsis for our own emotions rather than disclosing anything about its ghostly, literally faceless subjects who remain entirely anonymous and merely functional. Susan Sontag would turn in her grave.

Compare this to a photograph by the Dutch photographer Paolo Woods called Radio Haiti, which has rather ridiculously garnered only the 3rd place in the ‘Daily life’ category. A simple, but striking composition holds its subject at a respectable distance, yet gives her an incredible presence and focus, carefully framing her within a window of things that make up her world. It’s a remarkable photograph through which SO MUCH can be garnered on both intellectual and emotional fronts.

Ray McManus. Scrum Half. 2nd prize in Sports category

The modernist or rather classicist tendencies of Aranda’s photograph are much more

presciently and rightfully employed by the sports photographer Ray McManus. His image of rugby players during a moment of intense battle is both unashamedly romantic and achingly beautiful. Its sense of movement, texture and sensuality of bodies in action would do Delacroix proud. It is not particularly important who the rugby players are – their conflict is completely controled, staged and timeless – the focus here is the game itself with its peculiar ballet of masculinity.

Whatever… at the end of the day, WPP demonstrates yet again that it is painfully behind the enormous leaps and advances that photography has made within the last forty years. Illustration still rules the day.

VG

‘Industrial Symphony’ exhibition closes in Yerevan

Hayrapetian Anahit. Corridor. 'Metsamor' nuclear station. 2011. Winner of Lusadaran's 1st prize

Opening on the 3rd of December 2011, Lusadaran’s inaugural exhibition ‘Industrial symphony: photography and the post-industrial age’ has finished its run on the 27th of January 2012 at the Armenian Centre of Contemporary Experimental Arts in Yerevan.  Comprised of over 70 works by 19 contemporary Armenian photographers, the exhibition presented an overview of how perceptions and ideas about industry and labour have changed and evolved in the post-Soviet landscape through the medium of photography. A small selection of works by a classic of Armenian industrial photography, Hakob Hekekian, gave a retrospective and elucidating historical context to the images created in the last few years. Purposefully varied and expansive, the different trajectories and approaches  present in the show, also gave a rare insight into the multifarious state of contemporary Armenian photography.

The exhibition served as an opportunity to present Lusadaran’s first award for contemporary photography. Generously sponsored by the Armenian entrepreneur Vachagan Petrosyan, the main prize, to the value of 200 000 drams (approx. US $530) was presented to the work ‘Corridor. Metsamor nuclear station’ 2011 by Anahit Hayrapetyan. This acquisitive prize is one of the ways that Lusadaran aims to encourage contemporary art photography in Armenia and ensures that it is properly represented in the foundation’s collections. A second, non-acquisitive prize, was kindly initiated by the creator of the www.photo.am site, Art Ghazaryan. Valued at 100 000 drams, the prize was awarded to one of the youngest participants of the exhibition, the 23 year old Irina Grigoryan.

Critic, art historian Vardan Azatyan (Armenia) and film historian Chaga Yuzbachyan (France) presided over the jury. According to Mr Azatyan, the choice of a winner was extremely difficult due to the variety of approaches and general strength of all of the works. The selection of Anahit Hayrapetyan’s photograph was cemented by its dispassionately documentary yet conceptually rich and unexpected treatment of the subject matter. Ms Yuzbachyan also noted that they were impressed by the freshness and originality of Irina Grigoryan’s series ‘Gortsaranayin’, which stood out from the overall exhibition with its lyrical sensibility and vivid imagination.

A catalogue with an extensive essay and entries on all the participants is currently in preparation. The exhibition was also accompanied by a special film program called ‘The Dreaming Machine’ which looked at the theme of industry in cinema as it evolved from Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’ (1925) to Duncan Jonse’s ‘Moon’ (2009). The program screened at ‘The Club’ café throughout December and was supported by Yerevan’s longest-running unofficial ‘cinematheque’ Art Film Gallery and its creator, Melik Karapetyan. ‘Industrial Symphony’ was generously sponsored by financial contributions from Vachagan Nazaryan and Hakob Grigoryan (Australia).

Industrial Symphony: photography and the post-industrial age (exhibition brochure essay)

“The concept of progress must be grounded in the idea of catastrophe” – Walter Benjamin, 1939

Encompassing various disciplines, approaches and aesthetics, ‘Industrial symphony: photography and the post-industrial era’ looks at how perceptions about the industrial epoch have transformed in Armenia since the cataclysmic historical changes in the early 1990s.

The emphasis on the connection between photography and industry is deliberate. Born in 1839 as a product of the industrial revolution, photography became the paramount visual means in delineating the relationship between humanity and industrial progress throughout the 20th century – a process that continues to our days.[i] ‘Industrial symphony’ overviews this connection in the 21st century through over 70 works by 19 contemporary Armenian photographers, which range from latest photojournalistic series to conceptually informed installations.

 

The ruins of Leninist, Stalinist and Khruschevian utopias populate the landscape of Armenia (both physical and spiritual) like so many scars. Their disastrous effects on the environment and people are still deeply felt in numerous regions and cities like Alaverdi, Charentsavan, Akhtala and Kajaran, built on the cusp of the industrial boom between 1930 and 1950. For many, the devastation of the industrial progress is a very real and continuing problem. Yet, nostalgia for collective labour that made these enormous machines of modernity possible is also quite palpable. Some of the factories, power stations, bridges and other insignia of industrial might are also remarkable feats of architectural and engineering ingenuity and talent – as much as they are ecological death camps. They stand as awe- inspiring, mysterious yet anxiety-inducing monuments to lost ideals. The productive/destructive duality of the industrial context is typical not only of Soviet Armenia but is its most common characteristic in general. Western analogies have found successful ways of metamorphosing the ‘legacy’ of industrial age – most notably in Europe, where derelict industrial sites become housing complexes, cultural centres or even museums. In Armenia this process of transformation is only beginning.

 

Photography, once crucial in promoting the unstoppable march of technology through works by the likes of Margaret Burke-White, Yousuf Karsh, Willi Moegle and Boris Ignatovich again became imperative when it came to re-imagining and analysing the place of industry in the post-modern age. Both conceptual and documentary photographers, from Bernd and Hilla Becher to Jan Saudek, Allan Sekula and Mary Ellen Mark among others, have influenced current paradigms about labour relations, the technological sublime and the complex legacy of industrial modernities.

Alexander Rodchenko had famously rejected the role of traditional art in the process of modernisation, stating that “every contemporary, cultured person should wage a war against art, as if it was opium” and proposed instead that people should “photograph and be photographed!”[ii] It is a dictum that was also embraced by Soviet Armenian photographers and their industrial images were readily supplied to the communist propaganda apparatus. The material ranged from carefully edited documentation of Hakob Hekekyan and Martin Shahbazyan to almost euphoric celebration in works by Gagik Harutyunyan. These images have today become surreal, as the sites and contexts they once conveyed are no longer conceivable. One might even ask… did they ever exist? Writer Julia Hell perceptively noted that “photography, as Rodchenko hoped it would, has transformed itself into a real archive, but it is the archive of a failure.”[iii]

 

Contemporary photographers continue to add to this archive, although more cautiously than their predecessors. The advent of post-modern consciousness about the fallibility of photographic representation has not necessarily dampened their enthusiasm towards the medium. Looking at labour conditions today, Anahit Hayrapetyan, Inna Mkhitaryan, Nazik Armenakyan and Jacob Majaryan build on traditions of documentary photo-reportage insisting on the social significance and responsibility of photography. But as exposure to multifarious, disordered trends evident on the international scene has increased, so have the number of approaches and attitudes. Collectively, these diverse tendencies take a questioning position not so much towards the recent history but rather our own ideological preconceptions and certainties at any given time. The mood in many of the works is one of dispassionate observation as seen in minimalist objectivism of Tigran Hayrapetyan, Arthur Sakhkalyan, Lilit Umedyan and Garik Avanessyan as well as the distancing effect of Arthur Gevorgyan’s and Hayk Barseghyan’s architectural studies. Issues to do with ‘truth’, memory and the problematics of so-called collective consciousness find their reflection in neo-expressionist and performative modes of photography by David Galstyan, Mariam Chanchanyan, Tatevik Vardanyan, Suren Manvelyan and Irina Grigoryan. They, just as the boldly formalist inclinations of Anna Avetisyan and Hayk Bianjyan, gesture towards the malign explorations of earlier modernisms.

 

Within the ruins of industrial past the photographers find the slow, ‘decay time’ described by Walter Benjamin,[iv] where meditation and analysis replace the knee-jerk reactions of their more polemical predecessors of the 1970-90s. Even the conceptually rigorous installation by Taguhi Torosyan or the Rauschenbergian photo-series of Levon Fljyan are ambivalent hybrids that draw inspiration from varied sources.

 

The primary issue that comes through these recent surveys of industrial sites/symbols in Armenia and elsewhere is whether the vacuum left after the industrial collapse can be filled at all. Is this emptiness significant in itself, like a painful document, a metaphor… or can the memorials to the ‘proletariat’ be transformed in our post-utopian age? Perhaps these intimidating, overwhelming but often magnificent spaces can attain a new, equally useful function as sites for imagination: as factories for dreams.

 



[i] See Kate Davidson, the changing face of work: photography & the industrial age, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 1995, p 1

[ii] Alexander Rodchenko, ‘Against the Synthetic Portrait, for the Snapshot’ (1928) in Russian Art of the Avant-Garde: Theory and Criticism 1902-1934, ed. John E. Bowlt, New York, The Viking Press, 1976, p. 167.

[iii]Julia Hell; Andreas Schölne, Ruins of modernity, Duke University press, 2010, p. 453

[iv] See Walter Benjamin, ‘The Ruin’ in The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproductibility and other Writings on Media, London, Harvard University Press, 2008, pp 180-186

 

A first personal exhibition for Irina Grigoryan

A selection of works by the talented young photographer Irina Grigoryan will appear at a small group show in Yerevan ‘A Very Simple Exhibition’. The other participants of the show are printmakers Mariam Hakhnazaryan and Lilith Arshakyan who will exhibit graphic works.

Irina was one of the youngest photographers to be included in ‘Industrial Symphony: photography and the post-industrial age’ exhibition which is currently on view at ACCEA (NPAK) in Yerevan until January the 28th. Her series of small black and white photographs called ‘Gortsaranayin’, impressed the jury of this show, who awarded it the second prize given by ‘Lusadaran’ foundation of Armenian photography.

Grigoryan’s work has a special place in contemporary Armenian photography as she is one of the very few current practitioners who works with analog formats, printing all her work in the darkroom on gelatin silver paper. Typically for Grigoryan, the photographs included in ‘A Very Simple Exhibition’ explore ideas of childhood, femininity and memory.

The exhibition opened on the 27th of December at ‘Yellow Street’, Tumanyan 40-63 and will close on Friday, the 29th.

Kamo Nigaryan 1950-2011: The tragic demise of one of Armenia’s greatest contemporary artists.

Kamo Nigaryan, one of the pre-eminent contemporary artists working in Armenia passed away in Yerevan on December 23rd, 2011. The artist has been unwell for over a year but was on his way to recovery after an emergency surgery a month ago. His unexpected death was a severe blow not only to his family and friends but also the entire art world in Armenia where he was almost unanimously accepted as one of the great masters of post-Soviet Armenian art.

Nigaryan was mainly known for his disturbing neo-expressionist canvases that delved into the depths of human condition with a novelistic scale worthy of Kafka, Bulgakov and Dostoevsky. His photographic work, created during a short period in the 1990s and 2000s was a well kept secret and it was only in 2011 that Nigaryan agreed to exhibit these works at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Yerevan.

© Vigen Galstyan 2008

A tireless innovator, Nigaryan brought his unique brand of philosophical transcendence, conceptual rigour and ‘politicised’ aesthetics to the photographic image, constantly pushing and transforming the photograph beyond the limitations of the medium. Interested equally in the social and art historical dimensions of photography, Nigaryan sought to synthesise seemingly incompatible polarities between painting, photography and graphic design, in the same way he broached the artistic heritage of Western and Eastern worlds.

While he remained somewhat outside of the contemporary ‘scene’, Nigaryan was fully engaged with current movements and ideas, ensuring that his art was always immediate, relevant yet unflinching, objective and dispassionate. 

Lusadaran is currently planning a full retrospective of Nigaryan’s photographic works that will travel to a number of major international venues between 2013 and 2014.


Recent Acquisition

untitled (abstract study of arms)Unknown photographer
(Czechoslovakia)

untitled (abstract study of arms) 1960-70s
gelatin silver photograph, 24.2×18
Purchased 2011

Czech photography throughout the 20th century has attracted great scholarly and public interest due to its exceptional contribution to the development of modernist aesthetic. Early 20th century masters such as Frantisek Dritkol, Jaromir Funke and Josef Sudek have always been a part of the internationally constituted history of the photographic avant-garde. But according to Vladimir Birgus and Jan Mlčoch ‘entire chapters of the history of Czech photography remain largely neglected’. This pertains particularly to works produced in socialist Czechoslovakia between 1950s and 1990.
This untitled figure study by as yet unidentified Czech photographer displays all the hallmarks associated with the last great modernist phase of Czech photography. Harsh contrast, grainy textures and extreme cropping push the human body into an almost completely abstract territory. This was a favoured device by many great Czech masters of the period – from Zdenek Virt to Eva Fuka. Employing a variety of approaches developed in earlier decades, these photographers created a unique aesthetic that transformed reality into a surreal realm. But unlike the classic surrealism, this was not an ‘alternate’ dream or subconscious universe. Instead these photographers expose the surreality unfamiliar inherent within the world itself by emphasising camera’s monocular, liminal vision. In untitled, the familiar forms of arms are made strange and object like. The photographer deliberately disorients the viewer’s gaze by not anchoring the image within space or context. This helps to open new, poetic perspectives on the most known and common form in life – the human body – liberating the perception from the tyranny of ‘trained vision’.
As a fine example of one of the most important aspects of Czech photography – the exploration of the body – this masterful photograph is a significant addition to Lusadaran’s collection.

Conflicted visions: Gabriel Lekegian and the Oriental imagination

Upcoming exhibition project, 2017

Tracing the life and work of the enigmatic Egyptian-Armenian photographer Gabriel Lekegian, ‘Conflicted Visions’ is an attempt to re-evaluated his place within the annals of late 19th century Middle Eastern and ‘Orientalist’ photography.

Although ‘Photographie Artistique G. Lekegian & Co.’ produced some of the best known images of Egypt between 1880s and 1900s, little is known about their creator. Moreover, no effort has been made to properly evaluate this complex body of work that depicts all aspects of Egyptian life during a period of cataclysmic cultural, social and political transformations. A highly successful operator who was enlisted as the official photographer to the British Army in Egypt in the 1890s, Lekegian was also an active participant in international exhibitions, such as the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Nevertheless, the man behind the camera remained in the shadows, preferring to leave his personal life unexposed.

Drawn entirely from Lusadaran’s collection, this is the first exhibition that will showcase the immense variety of Lekegian studio output through close to fifty vintage photographs from 1880s to 1920s. These works are divided into two major groups. The early production which was carried out by or under direct supervision from Lekegian between 1880s and 1900s is followed by photographs made in the first two decades of the 20th century when the studio was sold by Lekegian, but preserved his name. Although made by different photographers, these later images were strongly influenced by the overall stylistic and thematic approaches developed by Lekegian.

Ranging from typical Orientalist subject matter such as architectural ruins, ethnographic types to early forms of industrial and documentary photography these commercial photographs remain a fascinating, albeit conflicted record of an Eastern country on the path of modernisation.

Extensive research undertaken over a ten year period will throw much needed light on Lekegian’s prolific career and mysterious biography. An accompanying catalog will be published to coincide with the exhibition. Exhibition venues and dates will be released in 2017.

Barrages Est du NileMarket SellerTurkish Woman in her House