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Antoine Agoudjian | Burning eyes. Memory of Armenians

[I] have been working on a photographic project dealing with memory since 1989. Every report leads me to places full of the history of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire where stories from my imagination took place. After the 1988 earthquake in Armenia, humanitarian help was for me the way to enter this symbolic piece of land, only existing in my mind. At the beginning, I didn’t use photography much but at that time it became the most important way to convey my emotions. After this very important year, I was filled with joy and felt lost in the same time. Discovering photography gave sense to my search. I never imagined to become a photographer. Photography just happened to me and it became clear it was the only manner I could express my sensitivity. I had no choice but to go in that direction.

I draw my inspiration from what nourishes me humanly, especially meetings because life arise out of meetings. I have strength and fragility but no certainty. I doubt all the time. It surely brings anguish and holds creative energy. In 1996, wandering in Istanbul, feeling fear and excitement in the same time, I strongly felt like looking for places impregnated by the past Armenian presence. My photographic project started from the impressions I had in the city. I decided to travel throughout Middle East looking for prints and memories of a people, my people. Whatever were the difficulties and obstacles I always immersed myself in this work with intuition and instinct. As Mary Desplechin wrote about my work in “L’Express”: “I went to visualize places, villages, people as one goes looking for a voice very often heard on the phone”. I kept searching while reporting in Istanbul, Jerusalem, Lebanon, Syria, Eastern Anatolia, Armenia, Kharabagh, Iraq, Iran, Djavaghk in Georgia and I continue this work because it is the most important work of my life.

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