Hrair Sarkissian is an Syrian photographer and artist, born in 1973. He grew up in his father’s photo studio in Damascus, where he often came as a child and then worked for 12 years. In 2008 Sarkissian moved to Amsterdam to study photography and art. Today, Sarkissian is a well-established artist who primarily portrays the Middle East and the Caucasus and the growing diaspora of people from the area, who have fled or migrated.
In his work Unexposed Sarkissian explores the consequences of persecution and expulsion for someone’s everyday life. You can almost not see the people on the photographs. Only a pair of hands, the contours of a head or a body is illuminated by streaks of light. They are descendants of Armenians who converted to Islam, to escape the genocide in the Ottoman Empire in 1915. Today, several of them have rediscovered their roots and converted back to Christianity. They are not accepted by either the Turkish society or the Armenian community and are forced to hide the fact that they are Christian Armenians. Sarkissian’s portraits of these people enlightens the way they have been subjected to erase a part of their identity.
Sarkissian uses an analogue format for his photos. The stories are often melancholy and sad. With technical skills and appealing aesthetics, Sarkissian gives the images a gentle beauty that evokes the desperation that characterizes the lives of those pictured. While the individuals live in the shadows, Sarkissian puts a light on what it can be like to live with a political, religious and social heritage that affects what parts of yourself you can show.