OD Photo Prize 2021 | Shortlisted Artist
Alexis Pazoumian (b.1988) is a French-Armenian photographer and director based in Paris. He takes a social documentary approach to his art, focusing on communities living on the fringes of society. His work has been featured in international exhibitions in Los Angeles, Bratislava, Paris, Lyon, Kuala Lumpur, Melbourne, Vancouver and Zurich – and he has been a finalist in several competitions: Fondation Lagardère, Paris Match Emerging Talent Awards, Life Framer, Foto filmic, Lucie Foundation, Off Festival of Bratislava, in addition to winning the HiP Award in 2020 for his book Sacha. His works have been published in the Washington Post, The Guardian, National Geographic, Der Spiegel, Vanity Fair, Télérama, Grazia, Vogue, NZZ and Libération.
“Armenia is a small country in the heart of the Caucasus. It is also my homeland. Like many Armenians in France, my great-grandparents lived in present-day Turkey and emigrated to France during the Armenian Genocide of 1915. I have been immersed in this culture since childhood. Ten years ago, I traveled to Armenia for the first time, in order to discover this country that I still knew so little about. Since then, I have photographed this territory extensively. In 2016, a few weeks after the “Four-Day War,” I discovered the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which literally means the “black garden.” It is a contested and landlocked region of the South Caucasus, which has witnessed nearly 30 years of armed conflict between Armenia (of which Nagorno-Karabakh was a former province) and Azerbaijan. I was struck by the ferocity of the destruction there: nothing had been spared, not even the schools. The villages were deserted. It seemed to me like the right time to undertake a project focused on this forgotten conflict, one of the grey areas of history. On a personal level, the conflict felt powerfully evocative, but remains something that no one has a very good understanding of, with the exception of the two warring parties. Black Garden, which began in 2016, attempts to understand the inhabitants of this region, their struggle for independence and why, despite years of unrest, they remain committed to this cause. For the majority of the population, living here is an act of resistance. Telling this story has become a personal obligation of mine: I feel compelled to give a face to this people, and to do so with compassion. In a world steeped in patriotism and military culture, where personal misfortunes and misery feed a sense of collective heroism, these inhabitants are doomed to be the tragic characters of an endless war. This project is both evidence of their past and present, as well as an attempt to understand their future.” – Alexis Pazoumian, 2021
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