Hover over the image for navigation and full screen controls
My father died in June 2000.
A few years before that, he and I decided to embark on a project about Karabagh: a remote mountainous area next to Armenia. A region where the Armenians fought and won a fierce war of independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union. A region still with militarized borders and no political recognition. A place in transformation: the people, the land, the very way of life in political, social, existential upheaval. A place that is part of our distant homeland.
Until the nineties, neither one of us had stepped foot in that part of the Armenian homeland. Both our generations were born and came of age in the sprawling cities of the Armenian Diaspora: in Jerusalem, Paris, Beirut, Philadelphia, Los Angeles.
Before his passing, my father and I made one trip to Karabagh together, in 1999. It coincided with the birth of my first son. After his passing, I continued work on our project for another six years. And my every trip back marked a new birth for my family and I. The project spanned four births in all. And one death.
And so this project took on a further meaning. Upon that land of our forefathers—there for over three millennia—from within the people who were living that history, came a quest to find the father. Through the eyes and senses of the emerging father.
Father:Land is a project about origins and identity. A project about a place and a people emerging out of a dark history, transforming, forging a new identity, searching for themselves and a new way of life. And also about a very personal becoming, an emergence.
Ara Oshagan’s work revolves around the themes of identity, community and aftermath. Since 1995, he has been photographing survivors of the Armenian Genocide, a project that includes oral history and is called The Genocide Project. Working with photographer Levon Parian and a team of oral historians, this work was exhibited at the Downey Museum of Art in 1999 and attracted national attention, being the main feature in an NPR Morning Edition story.
Oshagan has also been photographing extensively in Nagorno-Karabagh for a book project with his father, well-known author, Vahe Oshagan. This work was featured in Photo District News and was awarded third place in the prestigious Visions 2001 National Photographic Project Competition sponsored by the Santa Fe Center for the Visual Arts (now known as “Center”).
Working with the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, Oshagan received a California Council on the Humanities Major Grant in 2001 to photograph the Armenian experience of Los Angeles. This work, called Traces of Identity, was exhibited at the LA Municipal Art Gallery at Barnsdall Park from September to December 2004 and in 2005 at the Downey Museum of Art. The exhibit was reviewed in Art Papers, artcircles.com and featured in the LA Times, LA Weekly and LA Magazine’s “Top 10 Things to do in LA” in December 2004.
Oshagan has also been working in collaboration with Leslie Neale of Chance Films on a project to document high-risk juvenile offenders being tried as adults in California.
Oshagan’s work is in the permanent collection of the South East Museum of Photography in Daytona Beach, Florida, the Downey Museum of Art in Downey, California and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Yerevan, Armenia.
Editor’s Note: Please only one comment per person under this essay.. Further discussions should take place under Dialogue..
Many thanks… david alan harvey