Diana Markosian

My Father The Stranger


I knocked on the door of a stranger.

I’ve traveled halfway around the world to meet him.

My father.

I was seven years old when I last saw him.

As the Soviet Union collapsed, so did my family.

I remember my father and I dancing together in our tiny apartment in Moscow and him giving me my first doll.

I also remember him leaving.

Sometimes he would be gone for months at a time and then unexpectedly be back.

Until, one day, it was our turn to leave.

My mother woke me up and told me to pack my belongings. She said we were going on a trip. The next day, we arrived at our new home, California.

We hardly ever spoke of my father. I had no pictures of him, and over time, forgot what he looked like.

I often wondered what it would have been like to have a father.

I still do.

This is my attempt to piece together a picture of a familiar stranger.




Diana Markosian is a documentary photographer and writer.

Her reporting has taken her from Russia’s North Caucasus mountains, to the ancient Silk Road in Tajikistan and overland to the remote Wakhan Corridor in northeastern Afghanistan.

Diana’s images have appeared in The New York Times, The Sunday Times, Marie Claire, Foreign Policy, Foto8, Time.com, World Policy Journal, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International, amongst others.

Her work has been recognized by a diverse range of organizations including UNICEF, AnthropoGraphia, Ian Parry Scholarship, Marie Claire Int’l, National Press Photography Association, Columbia University and Getty Images. In 2011, Diana’s image of the terrorist mother was awarded photo of the year by Reuters.

She holds a masters from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.


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Diana Markosian


18 thoughts on “Diana Markosian – My Father the Stranger”

  1. Diana, you are the Real Deal. Congrats. Will the prize be used to continue this work, or on another project?

    btw it’s “raised my brother and me,” not “my brother and I.”

    raised me, thus raised my brother and me…

    that’s petty, but, you know, i couldn’t help myself!

  2. So glad to see this longer and different edit.
    Diana…again….love this work. Deeply emotional in every respect.
    No need for words. It’s all in the pictures.

  3. Totally excellent. This just may be the best thing I have ever seen on burn, period. It penetrates so deep. Close to her father, yet distant.

    I am glad, however, despite the observations of Carlo and Gordon, that I got to read the full piece that appeared in NYT Magazine. To know the baby in the pictures is Diana’s half-sister just adds all the more to the impact and power of the images.

  4. Or course I should note that there have been at least half-a-dozen times when I have saw an essay on Burn and in the excitement of the moment, thought it to be the best of all time. Whether it is or not, it is superb work, well deserving of the award it has just received.

  5. It is interesting to me how important the man himself was to the success of the essay. Even in an awkward situation, with this woman who is his long separated daughter pointing a camera at him, he remains distant, disconnected from her and the camera. Considering the strained relationship, it is telling that his daughter’s, and the camera’s, presence does not affect him. He appears always inward directed. Most people react to the camera, he does not. His separation is real and internal, it is not a costume he wears. Interesting.

  6. Jamie Maxtone-Graham

    One sees the word ‘deep’ written here numerous times above this comment and you will see it here again. This is deeply resonating work and touches on the best of what photography can do and can be; it’s personal and universal and that Diana has clearly invested her self as a person, a woman, a daughter and an artist makes all these elements swirl into a beautiful and clear portrait of love and loss. And love again.

    Thank you.

  7. Congratulations! Wonderful essay. Image 11 is a show stopper for me. Between the time I saw it in the announcement movie and the full essay here, I misremembered it as a color image. My mind must have instinctively colored it all in. I could have sworn that the wallpaper was yellow and red.

    Anyway, love how all the essays were much quieter and more personal than previous years. There was no war/poverty essays, no dreamy, avant garde, just strong storytelling. I wonder if that reflects some of the judges styles as well.

    congratulations to all selected!

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  9. In some of these photos, your father looks like a ghost haunting his own life. Beautiful work, Diana, and congratulations on getting the EPF.

  10. i have a question.
    in which part of the project and in which photograph does the photographer express this..
    ”I was seven years old when I last saw him”


  11. dimitris,

    Obviously, she took no photographs for this essay when she was seven, so she expressed this in the sentence you quote. Words and photos can work together to enhance the meaning of the other. Having read Diana’s words, it appears to me the echo of the departure she experienced at the age of seven is expressed in every photo Diana has published here.

  12. i understand, something like songs (music and words-poetry, together). i am wondering where is the music today (except jazz).
    where are the ”jazz” photographs.

    anyway, congratulations Diana for your project, keep walking.
    hoping at a time to run..

    (sorry for my english)

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