Groundbreaking book of photographs documents Armenian identity throughout US
WATERTOWN, Mass.—On Thurs., April 18, the Boston chapters of the Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society and Tekeyan Cultural Association host a photographic journey of “Armenian-American Contributions to Humanity after the Genocide” by Stepan Partamian at the Armenian Cultural and Educational Center (ACEC) in Watertown.
Partamian’s The Armenian in America, an unprecedented volume featuring close to 600 photographs, was recently published in Los Angeles. Starting in 2009, when the project was announced, Partamian meticulously researched the destinations he was to document, and embarked on successive road trips that encompassed most of the continental U.S. In addition to his preliminary research, the author met with Armenian communities in various states, both to gain fresh insight into local histories and gather further information on Armenian landmarks worthy of inclusion in the book.
“The main reason that this project came about is that I’m not interested in the mere preservation of Armenian culture, but rather believe in nurturing and celebrating its creative energies, its wonderful potential,” Partamian said. “While we Armenian-Americans claim to be proud of our long history in America, most of us don’t know the first thing about Armenian communities beyond the cities or counties in which we live, let alone communities in far-flung states. As I discovered in the past four years, there is a breathtaking diversity of Armenian life in the United States.”
Partamian ended up taking thousands of photographs of Armenian sites and signs, which were eventually distilled into The Armenian in America—a full-color, 184-page volume documenting Armenian life in every state with an Armenian community, from Arizona to Washington, D.C.
“I sought to document the dazzling tapestry of Armenian-American culture, not only [because] amazingly, no one had yet attempted a project of this type, but because I wanted to share the multifaceted nature of our cultural footprint with fellow Armenians, the young generation in particular,” Partamian continued. “Collectively, Armenians suffer from either the superiority complex of a glorious past, or the inferiority complex of a victimized nation. My hope is that, through an initiative like The Armenian in America, our compatriots will form a clearer idea of the extent of our presence and accomplishments in this land, and rightfully feel a sense of shared achievement.”
The Armenian in America includes photographs of Armenian institutions and establishments, such as churches, schools, community centers, and businesses; landmarks, such as statues, khatchkars (cross-stones), genocide monuments, veteran memorials, and memorial plaques; public signs, such as Armenian street and highway names; and even Armenian flags placed in front of public buildings.
Partamian’s photographs reveal a wealth of factoids about Armenian-American history. In Ocala, Fla., for instance, the author came across two Armenian churches facing each other, one affiliated with the See of Antelias and one with the See of Etchmiadzin. Although the two churches remain Armenian community-owned, both are rented to non-Armenian congregations, indicating that Armenian church services are no longer held in these houses of worship.
In California, Partamian came across Yettem, the only town in the United States with an Armenian name. In Connecticut, he photographed a sign of the Antranig Ozanian Memorial Highway, as well as the memorial stone of Haroutune Daghlian, a physicist with the Manhattan Project who accidentally irradiated himself in 1945. While in Virginia, Partamian searched for the grave or memorial of Martin the Armenian, one of the first settlers of the Jamestown Colony. His search turned up nothing, but he found an extraordinary-looking tree and dedicated it to Martin the Armenian, commenting that, just like the Armenian people, the tree would grow and wither, but certainly give rise to new shoots.
The publication of The Armenian in America comes on the heels of a series of books by Partamian documenting the contributions of Armenians to American civilization. In Yes, We Have and its sequel, Yes, We Have Too, as well as an Armenian version, titled Ayo, Menk Enk, Partamian has documented the contributions of hundreds of Armenian-Americans to their adopted homeland, in fields ranging from science, technology, and literature to politics, journalism, and sports.
The sale of the Yes, We Have series helped fund the publication of The Armenian in America. In the same way, Partamian said, proceeds from the sale of the latter will benefit his next major project, the making and publication of The Armenian in the World.
A sweeping photographic survey of Armenian institutions, landmarks, and signs across the entire globe, The Armenian in the World will be published just before April 2015, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Medz Yeghern.
The Armenian in America, priced at $40, will be available for purchase at Armenian bookstores and online at TheArmenian.com.
The April 18 event at the ACEC, 47 Nichols Avenue, is free and open to the general public.