The History of Armenian Photography
From the 1950s until we emigrated to Canada in 1975, my father was a studio photographer in Aleppo, Syria. Armenians dominated studio photography in Aleppo from the beginning and it wasn’t until the 1960s that things began to change as photography became cheap and easily accessible to new photographers of different ethnic groups. When my family moved I was only two and my dad left his photo archive back in Aleppo. We have no idea where it is or if it still exists in some basement. His atelier was called Studio SAMO.
The first historic Armenian photograph I bought was probably in the year 2000 and I discovered the piece on eBay. It was a strangely beautiful image of a married Armenian Apostolic deacon and his family, and it was by K.S. Melikian of Worcester, Massachusetts. I’m guessing it was taken in the 1920s or 30s. I lived with that image for years — both in my office and at home — and the personal relationship with it was what inspired me to buy more.
My collection has roughly 300 original photographs dating from the 19th and 20th centuries, including photos by Abdullah Frères, Gabriel Lekegian, Pascal Sébah, G. Krikorian, Z. G. Donatosian, Bogos Tarkulyan, Sarkis M., Aram Alban, Onnes Kurkdjian, S. Vartanian, Hadjolian Frères, Van Leo, Armand, Garo, Ida Kar, Studio Samo, Studio Haig, Gariné Torossian, and Aram Jibilian.
North American Armenian Literature
A unique body of literature that began with the publication of Khachadur Osganian’s The Sultan and His People (1857) and continues until today. From award-winning playwright and novelist William Saroyan in the 1930s and 40s to the powerful performance art of Eric Bogosian of the 1980s and the serial novels of Arthur Nersesian and Nancy Kricorian today. The collection predominantly includes first editions but also includes works of non-fiction and fiction that are related to the literary tradition more generally, such as Ambassador Robert Morgenthau’s memoir that extensively discusses the political realities of his post as US ambassador in Constantinople (Istanbul) during the years of the Armenian Genocide.
The collection of Armenian Canadian literature includes works by Ara Baliozian (a personal favorite), Lorne Shirinian, Atom Egoyan, and others.
There is also a special group of personal papers by William Saroyan addressed to an Armenian bookseller in Los Angeles. It includes unpublished passages about names and other observations about life and some photographs.