Photography | Nune Garipian's exploration of the 'collective Armenian identity'
January 30, 2020
Moving from Glendale, Calif. (one of the largest Armenian populations in the Armenian Diaspora) to New Haven, Conn. (where Armenians are few and far between) wasn't easy for Nune Garipian. "No one could even pronounce my name,” she said during a recent conversation with h-pem. Soon after relocating, though, Nune would meet and develop a connection with a small group of Armenian students at her university. And after enrolling in a photography course to learn more about her hobby, she was given an opportunity to showcase how she and her friends incorporate their Armenian identities into their daily lives. We are happy to present the series as a submission, only on h-pem...
|Artist's name||Nune Garipian|
|City/Country||New Haven, Conn.|
|About the artist||
Growing up in Glendale, Calif., being Armenian came naturally for Nune.
Her neighbors were Armenian. Her classmates were Armenian. Even her doctor was Armenian (Fun fact: they shared the same name!).
“In Glendale, there’s an Armenian bakery, an Armenian grocery store on pretty much every block. Even if you don’t speak English, you can get around town just fine just speaking Armenian,” she explains of her hometown.
But when she moved across the country to go to college, Nune would soon realize that things were a lot different in her new home in New Haven, Conn. “I didn't realize how strange my situation was until I moved. I realized that there were virtually no Armenians around. No one could even pronounce my name,” she explains.
For Nune, her identity had always been an ordinary, almost passive experience. After moving to Connecticut, however, she was, for the first time, forced to ask herself what it meant to be Armenian in a new, foreign space.
“There weren’t many Armenians. Especially on campus, there were maybe 7 or 8 of them, all varying in ages,” she says. “This was a very different experience: going from always being surrounded by Armenians, from constantly hearing Armenian, to a place where many people don’t even personally know any Armenians. In a lot of instances, I am the first Armenian they meet."
Transitioning from a close-knit Armenian community in California was very difficult for Nune, especially when she first moved. “Luckily, though, I was quickly able to meet some Armenian students here at Yale,” she says.
Nune also found herself traveling to Boston quite often, where there is a much larger, more organized Armenian community. “There, I was able to meet other Armenian students. It’s like I gravitated towards them,” she adds.
Nune is not a professional photographer. For her, photography has always been a hobby; something she’s long enjoyed doing. So, while studying Political Science at Yale, she decided to enroll in a photography course to hone her skills and to learn more about the art form.
One of the projects for her class developed into this submission for h-pem: what Nune calls “an exploration of our collective Armenian identity.” “I wanted to showcase the subtle ways we, as Armenians, incorporate our identities into our daily lives,” she explains.
With motivation from her photography instructor (who, she later found out was part Armenian), Nune set out to snap candid photos of her new Armenian friends in their everyday lives. “What I wanted to do is capture my subjects in the spaces in which they were most comfortable; where they were most ‘at home',” she says. And that is perhaps what makes this photo series work so well—it’s what makes her images so real and relatable.
We at h-pem look forward to future submissions by Nune...
For example, the photos of Kohar are taken at her apartment—at Kohar’s bed and at her desk. “Her space was like a museum—an intersection of all her identities,” Nune explains. From the Watan/Sophia Armen “Armenian women say reparations now!” print, to the photos of various protests, Nune beautifully captures parts of her friend’s identity.
Then there are the photos of Kris, who is originally from Watertown, Mass. "He invited me and another friend to have coffee at his grandma’s house. She set the table for us and we had coffee as I snapped my photos. It reminded me of home—of being with my grandma," she explains.
The brothers Kasumyan
Backgammon is a pastime that is very popular among Armenians—both in Armenia and throughout the diaspora. Brothers Artin and Arthur Kasumyan, two friends of Nune's, are very good at keeping the Armenian backgammon legacy alive. "They play all the time—they’ve even taught all their housemates how to play," Nune explains. It was very important for her to capture the intensity of the match. Even though it is considered a pastime, the game can get quite heated. "They tried teaching me, but it didn’t work out all that well," she admits.
"I wanted to find a way to put myself in the series too," Nune says. She had set out to capture her friend Narek, but came up with the shot while messing around with her camera. "Narek is from Greece and he, like me, is trying to find a home away from home," Nune says.
Want to learn more more about Nune's academic journey? Check out this piece penned by her in Forbes Civic Nation.
Are you an aspiring writer, poet, or artist? Show the world what you've got!
Join our community and receive regular updates!Join now!
Language has always played a major component in our cultural identity as Armenians. But what do other communities have to say about this topic? We reflect on the experiences of the largest American ethnic group—the Irish—and, in doing so, find the commonalities in their struggle and the universal lessons we can take away from history
Are you of Armenian descent and live in the United States? Do you define yourself as Armenian-American? The difference between these questions may seem subtle, but it sparks two radically divergent conversations, one perhaps more hostile than the other. If you’ve ever been personally attacked by the Regina George of Armenian Identity Labels, you may find some comfort in the following recount.
Disclaimer: This article touches upon Armenianness as it pertains to diasporans living in the U.S. Those born and living in Armenia and other parts of the world may have different experiences and approaches to this question that the author does not feel she can speak to, though some of the themes and observations may overlap.
Inspired by his recent participation in Hamazkayin ArtLinks 2019, Los Angeles-based comedy writer and magician Missak Artinian (AKA Magic Missak, AKA the Armenian Channing Tatum) shares his story "Between bowls"—his pursuit of identity, self-discovery, and the perfect bowl of soup...