On the evening of October 21, people from different fields gathered in “4 Plus.” They came to see the results of Anahit Ghazaryan’s hard work for over several years – the photo exhibition of Mariam Shahinyan, the first female professional photographer in Turkey. Mariam worked for half a century, 1935-1985. Anahit found the photos as a result of months of searching in antique shops in Istanbul.
The general appearance and furnishings of the office fully reflected the period which was reflected in the photographs of the exhibition. Old, cracked walls, decor items on the tables, in the presence of which you could feel the smell of the past century.
Anahit told people about her work with such sensitivity that it seemed that even if you did not listen to her words, you would understand everything from her feelings and emotions.
“It was hard to expect that in Turkey a woman could do such things in a male environment. Here we see a woman’s perspective on what Istanbul looks like through the eyes of a woman. My strongest desire was that first of all Armenian female artists get to know Mariam Shahinyan. Maybe she will change something in the worldview of our women,” says Anahit.
The exhibition was supported by the Women’s Fund of Armenia. This is the first collaboration between Anahit Ghazaryan and the Fund. According to Anahit, she learned about the Fund from friends. “When you want to do something, but you have no means, you know that there is someone who can help you, who can support you. That is, you are not alone, there is some place/institution where to turn with your problems. This is very inspiring, the feeling of helplessness is overcome. They just help you because they like your ideas,” she said.
Anahit’s place in the world
It is difficult to attribute any profession to Anahit, to present her as a representative of one field, since she works in many fields.
“I wanted to become an actor, but at that time tuition fees were very high. Since there were philologists in our family, I decided to study philology. My choice was not very well thought. I entered university at the age of 15. At this age it is difficult to choose a profession, and in general to understand who you want to become,” she says.
During her studies, Anahit began working at one of the Armenian radio stations. She covered cultural news, interviewed cultural figures.
Then Anahit continued her education at The Institute for Contemporary Art. “It gave me a very strong education, I could hardly have received such an education anywhere else in Armenia,” she says.
Archiving Anahit’s emotions
Anahit Ghazaryan started taking photos in 2016. “When I had to go to Istanbul, one of my friends taught me how to take pictures with an analog camera. I took my mom’s old Zenith camera with me and started taking pictures with tape,” she says.
According to Anahit, through the photo you can see and feel how the world moves inside you. “Visual language is undergoing very strange and big changes today. It is interesting how people think about themselves with pictures. People create an identity in photos, then begin to believe in that identity and copy it. I do not know, for example, at what stage the photo will be for the person of the future. I have no ambitions in this regard. What I present in the photos is just an archiving of my emotions,” she says.
Literature as a refuge
Anahit Ghazaryan also carries out activities in the field of literature. According to her, literature is the place where she will always return. “If there’s one place I can always go back to (no matter how many misfortunes I’ve had), that’s literature. Photography is also important to me, but literature comes first, I will return to it after everything and find refuge, I will be able to express my feelings in it. Writing is very meditative for me. Literature is where I always come back,” she says.
The priority of education for Anahit
Anahit Ghazaryan thinks that education is a possible tool to get out of the stereotypes in Armenia. In this context, she and her friend Gohar Khachatryan co-founded the first Armenian feminist podcast, “Akanjogh” [Earring]. “We wanted it to be very organic: that is, to do something that really touches you, that comes from your experience, from within you, to speak from within, not from above, as if “you are ignorant, and we come to educate you”. No! I say, I am one of you, you and I are the same,” Anahit emphasizes.
According to Anahit, within the podcast, the reactions of teenage girls were especially interesting for her. “One of my acquaintances once said that her daughter heard our podcast. She was in a transition period. Because of the standards of beauty, she thought she was ugly and so on. It’s so exciting to think that you can help a teenage girl think better of herself,” she says.
Overcoming difficulties and the path to positive changes
As Anahit Ghazaryan mentions, she always encounters difficulties as a female public figure. “It always has been, it’s so much in our country, that at some point you are not noticing it. It is so ubiquitous that it has gone unnoticed for me. Those issues range from the most mundane to the most serious things, for example sitting in front of a bus in our country. I think there is no woman who does not face all this every day. It is already a part of our lives,” she says.
According to Anahit, she received perceptions about the role of women in society through her family. “When I was little, my brother was trying to rule me. One day my mother sat us down and explained to us that we are both equal, neither of us is superior to the other, neither one has the right to oppress the other. At that time the world changed so much for me. But when I grew up and I started to interact with the outside world, I was shocked at how women/girls were treated in society. For example, nobody asks women’s opinion,” says Anahit.
According to her, the attitude of the society should be changed through education. “When you give new knowledge, which becomes a tool to think about yourself, it changes the situation. People start to disagree, not to adapt to the existing rules, to advance their own agenda,” she says.
Anahit Ghazaryan plans to start a new project with her friend Gohar Khachatryan in the context of the above-mentioned ideas. “We are thinking about a new project, again in the context of feminism, but we have not yet decided on the format and topic. I want to change the way women think about themselves. I have no problem with men, it’s important to me what you, as a woman, think about yourself. I do not demand anything from a man, he will change if I change the way of relating to him. I want women to think that they can do everything. I want to change the way women think about themselves, ”she concludes.
Interview by Yelena Sargsyan