Monday- the below entry didn’t make it up- old news for me already for me- spent a full day in Gyumri and have a much more complete photo series to work on the flight back to NYC. Gyumri is the place in Armenia that has most captured my interest behind the camera.
back blog-Sunday in Yerevan, having a beer in an Internet café near where I’m staying. Today I shot in Vandazor at a home for elderly people that FAR is respondisble for. The residents seemed very happy to get the extra attention my visit brought them .I had Lusy (who works for FAR) ask questions to each of the people, like how long they lived there and who they came to the home. Most of the residents’ children’s were off in Russia where they went to find work and were brought to the facility so they would be cared for. The residents will live out their days there.
Tomorrow my last day of this trip I will return to Gyumri to shoot at a music school for kids and shoot more of the people who are living in “containers.” After the earthquake that almost leveled the town 20 years ago this December, many people were given metal containers to live in. At first I was shocked that people were living in such abject conditions, then I learned a bit more of the story. Like New Orleans' recovery the story is not black and white. Many of the people who are still living in containers have recovered grant money- only to squander it or buy apartments and sell them to others yet remaining in there contraries. The containers are make shift metal shacks, and were not made to withstand 20 years of habitation and many of them are clearly hazards places to live. I heard how many have burnt to death when there containers catch fire due to make shift stoves and how others freeze to death in the harsh winter.
People were happy to tell their stories, just like Victims of Katrina, and invited me into their homes to photograph. I will shoot as many interiors as I can tomorrow, and learn more about Gyrumri past and present.
I have also had the chance to visit some of Armenia’s churches dating back to the 4th century. Notes and images of those places to follow.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Last night thousands marched to the Armenian Genocide Memorial holding candles and torches marking the eve of the 93rd anniversary of the Genocide. Many of marches had banners demanding Turkey recognize the massacres as genocide.
There were other banners saying: "Save Europe! Keep Turkey out of the EU!"
Today President Serzh Sarkisian attended the ceremonies in the late morning at the memorial. I elbowed my way in for position and got shots of him next to the head of the Armenian church who said a prayer for the dead.
I’m not great at estimating crowds but I’d have to say there were at least 500,000 when I was there (I left at 12 noon to upload some images and will return once this is posted). People wait their turn after walking up a long path in the bright sun to lay a flower by the eternal flame at the monument's center. The pile of flowers forming around the eternal flame was already waste high when I left- tulips, lilacs,and carnations making up most of the mix.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Between the internet being down and overloading hours of shooting in the coarse of my days, my blog entries for my trip to Armenia turn out to be more of a running account of what I’m up to, here is what I have got so far….
My second day in Yerevan (April 18th), FAR, an organization doing humanitarian work in Armenia took me to shot at some of its programs. I started out at a hospital interns are trained. I got to shot a surgeon in action removing cancer from a man's stomach. Next stop was a soup kitchen that serves 250 people one meal a day (5 days only). The kitchen used to serve even more patrons but had to cut back due to lack of funds. It is located in an abandoned stone-polishing factory. Most of the population worked polishing stone or cutting diamonds, all but about 10% lost their jobs when Armenia became independent after the fall of the Soviet Union. Poverty is prevalent since many of the factories closed down and no other industry has been developed in the area. The soup kitchen serves as more then a place to get a meal; it is also a social hall. A few couples have met there and married. On from there I was taken to The Children’s Reception and Orientation Center, a place where displaced children are kept and cared for until a family member or orphanage is found to place them with. The first child I took pictures of was a three-year-old girl whose mother was sent to prison. The center found her grandmother, where she will be moved. The center is a transitory location for displaced children from 3- 18 years of age. They remain at the center up to 18 days.
Saturday, I went to Noraduz near the shores of lake Serevan, where ancient tombstones, up to a thousand of then are in the graveyard on the town’s outskirts. The graveyard also has a section still in use today. One large funeral party was being held while I was visiting, also a smaller memorial where three men were getting drunk in front of a grave. They offered me some vodka, which I declined. Armenian home brewed vodka is tough stuff as I had found out my second night in town. The ancient part of the cemetary was unlike anything I have ever scene. I found myself equally fascinated by Armenian’s current style of tombs. I visit graveyards in most places I visit. By visiting cemeteries in each place I visit I gain insight into the culture. Each locality has a different prodominant style that most of the graves mimic, making each graveyard distinctive. In Armenia one identifying style is the engraving of peoples faces and sometimes full bodies on black tombstone that serves as ghostlike portraits of the dead.
Sunday I started my day at Yerevan’s fleamarket. Armenian kitsch makes up most of the items available. Mt. Ararat paintings filled the markets parememter. One can buy items ranging from hardware to puppies( image of puppies in car trunk; from paintings to medical implements. Next up I left the city and went to one of the mostly visited touristic sites, the Garni Temple, a pagan temple originally built in 7780 by king Trdat 1st and to there Geghart built in 1215, a church that serves as a tourist destination and an active place of worship. ( image of young girls is shot in the church)
Saturday, April 19, 2008
I arrived safe and sound in Yerevan on the 16th. Finding a fast internet connection was a challenge but I have found the right spot and it is 3 blocks from where I'm staying. Shot the female cop image- a detail from an advertisement for a nightclub, and the image with man and woman in the glasses in Yerevan my first day wondering around. The Mermaid is from the shores of lake Servan. Now Armenia is represented in my sign painting series. Like elsewhere in the world when I stopped to take shots of the signs people looked at me suspiciously wondering what I was up to. I think people don't notice signs they walk by on a daily basis, or the ones they drive by quickly. They stop me in my tracks, but I guess I am hunting for new ones all the time. Yerevan is a gritty yet elegant city. Tomorrow I will check out a fleamarket and make my way to the genocide museum. Now i'll head back and get some sleep happy to know I can upload a lengthier entry soon. The contrast between old and new is extreme here. I will post more images soon.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
This last week was the bloodiest week for US soldiers in Iraq to date this year, the headlines read this morning. I started thinking of Arlington West in Santa Monica where crosses for each of the dead are set up in the sand. It has been almost a year since I last took photos there. 19 symbolic coffins would have been carried out this morning and taken away again at sunset. The number of dead "19" would have been written on the sign that changes weekly with the weekly death count. I looked through some of my old shots and found one that would match the sign on the beach today, and decided to post it. I shot these two images at Arlington West on the week ending on Christmas day 2006. More of my work from Arlington west can be seen on my website www.jsdart.com Hasn't Bush claiming that the surge is going well? I guess well is a relative term.
I met the man in the top image last November in Las Vegas, at the Rio Casino. A mime by profession, in this instance dressed as Charlie Chaplin . He noticed me working and flirted with me since he considered me to be a fellow artist. The Rio puts on a free racy stage show, with scantly clad dancers performing badly choreographed dance routines every half hour on the hour from 5. till 10. The mime, invited me to go out with him after work. He tried to impress me with his intelligence and started to talk about politics while spewing his anti-Semitic beliefs. "The Jews control everything", "the richest Jews left Europe and came to the USA from where they helped start the Holocaust". I have heard many racist comments but this one was new to me. I’m pretty sure it hadn’t occurred to him that I was Jewish. That or he wanted to get a rise out of me I’m not sure. I was not expecting to start up intellectually stimulating conversations with strangers in Las Vegas; my only intention was to shoot a new portfolio worth of work. Listening to anti- Semitic conspiracy theories, I can do with out. This man’s random rantings reminded me how ingrained anti-Semitism and racism are in our culture.