Thanks to your overwhelming support, our goals have expanded. Every penny raised over the original budget will go to support the coverage of even more communities over the next few months. So please - keep spreading the word, so that we can include as many of you as possible!
I've also added some new rewards that you can read about here.
The Armenian Diaspora Project aims to tell the story of a people largely known only for their role as the victims in one of the first genocides of the 20th century.
This project is not, however, about victimhood. It is a portrait of survival.
For the past four years, driven by a desire to show the strength and diversity of the Armenian people, I have been documenting Armenian communities from Lebanon to Ethiopia to Brazil. Up until now, the project has been completely self-funded—using the now-depleted proceeds from my previous bestselling book on the first Obama campaign. I am currently seeking funding to complete the project in time for a book release in April 2015, the centennial of the Armenian Genocide.
Please join me in becoming a part of The Armenian Diaspora Project.
The story of the Armenians has always been one of upheaval. For the past three thousand years, waves of migrants left their ancestral homes in Eastern Turkey and Northern Syria, following ancient trade and pilgrimage routes and fleeing countless revolutions, civil wars, and massacres.
Despite these centuries of displacement, however, today's Armenian diaspora is strong and vibrant—with eight million Armenians living in over 85 countries across the globe. As a child, it was inexplicable to me why none of the literature on Armenians reflected this complexity. Instead, it was all just about the massacres—as if the Genocide had successfully ended the Armenian story.
As an Armenian-American, I knew what happened during the Genocide. What I wanted to know was what happens after a genocide. The Armenians have thrived as a diaspora. How? How did we rebuild our communities? How did families stay linked when one sister fled to Lebanon and another to France? Were any of these communities still Armenian? While Armenians have their own religion and language to keep their traditions intact, I knew that my own community was fading into assimilation, and I could only assume that others faced a similar danger. And at the end of the day, what does it even mean to be Armenian when you are born and brought up in Ethiopia or Argentina or India?
After the success of my first book, the New York Times bestseller, YES WE CAN, I finally set out to find the answers to these questions and to create a book that will be a portrait of the global Armenian community as it exists today.
Since beginning this project, I have photographed drag racers in Los Angeles and a village on the Syrian-Lebanese border that keeps all of the Old Country traditions. I have met seminarians in Jerusalem, mixed-race altar boys in Addis Ababa, and card-playing revolutionaries in Beirut. I have marched with gay-rights activists in New York and swam with resettled Syrian-Armenian refugees. I have seen children thriving in the only Armenian village left in Turkey and I have met with repatriates and Birthright Armenian volunteers in Yerevan.
More specifically, I have photographed Armenian-American communities in Los Angeles, Boston, New York, New Jersey, and Washington DC; the Brazilian-Armenian community in Sao Paulo, the ancient communities in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Alexandria, Egypt; the religious community in Jerusalem; the large community in pre-war Syria and Syrian refugees in Nagorno-Karabakh; the massive and complex community in Lebanon including Bourj Hammoud, the village of Anjar, and the residents of the last remaining Genocide-era refugee camp; in Turkey, including the old now-empty villages like Hadjin and Harput, as well as Easter Mass in the newly renovated Surp Giragos in Diyarbakir and Vakifli, the only Armenian village remaining in Turkey; and also in Armenia itself.
I've also done over 200 interviews to make sure that people's stories about their past and hopes for their future are not being lost.
As I struggle to complete this work before the upcoming Armenian Genocide centennial in 2015, I realize that I am documenting a particularly important and fragile moment in Armenian history. One hundred years after the Genocide, the Ethiopian community is down to a few families and the Egyptians worried about post-revolutionary upheavals are emigrating to Los Angeles in droves. In Beirut, the last remaining Armenian refugee camp from the Genocide-era is being demolished. At the same time, tens of thousands of refugees, many of whom I first photographed in pre-war Syria, have fled the Syrian civil war to Armenia, Lebanon, and Nagorno-Karabakh. Even more secure communities like Brazil and the United States are worried that, as the younger generations lose the language and marry non-Armenians, their physical survival and their success in their new homelands is at the cost of their culture.
Moreover, for many Armenians, the story I am telling is an unknown one. I have talked to countless young Armenians who have no idea about the communities in Ethiopia or in Latin America or of the monastery in Venice. Too many people only have access to the story of our tragedy. I want to show them our vitality, and to create a book that they and their families will be proud to look at and see not only themselves and their communities, but the strength and diversity of the global Armenian community.
STILL TO COME...
In the coming months, I will finish this project by documenting the huge community in Russia, as well as the ancient community in India and the massive and powerful communities in France and Argentina and the monastery on Saint Lazarus of the Armenians in Venice.
In September I will have all images and design delivered to my publisher in time for an April 2015 release date.
April - Diyarbakir and Istanbul
May - Russia and India
June - France, Italy, Argentina
July - August - finalize book design
September – design to publisher
Winter – proof and print book
April 2015 – BOOK RELEASE
Unfortunately, in today's publishing environment, a photography book is a real risk. And let's be honest, for all you Armenians out there - how many times have you had to explain exactly what an Armenian is and where exactly your people are from? As a result, the current reality is that I will need to pay for the book to be designed and published, especially because I want the book to be a beautiful keepsake for you and your families.
Up until now, this project has been completely self funded—a real labor of love—using the profits from my previous book, which I was fortunate enough to have be a New York Times and LA Times bestseller. Unfortunately, even the profits from a bestseller can only go so far, and so as I attempt to finish this project, I need to ask for your help.
Your pledges will not only go to pay for the last two trips of the project, but they will also pay for the design and publication of the book.
If we meet our goal you will be able to take the book home with you in April of 2015.
With your assistance, I will be able to finish telling the untold story of the Armenians—not of their deaths, but of our survival—and create a portrait of what happens to a community in the one hundred years after a massive trauma. Just as Jews are more than just the Holocaust, Armenians are more than just the Genocide. While many of the challenges the communities face do have their roots in 1915, the Genocide was not the end of the Armenian story.
This project is deeply important to me, and I am more grateful than I can say for your support. My hope is that it will be as important for others—a beautiful and loving portrait of the Armenian community—highlighting our strength, versatility, and our ability to survive.
Please help me to tell the story of our survival.
Please support The Armenian Diaspora Project.
Risks and challenges
I don't anticipate any problems, but as my father always says "If we knew when it was going to rain, we wouldn't need showers."
In order to finish this project in order to release the book by April 2015, I will need to set a very ambitious travel schedule. But I have been working as a photojournalist for over 15 years and I am used to working with demanding schedules and on tight deadlines. Moreover, I will keep all backers informed of my progress throughout every phase of the project with exclusive insights and images, and if there are any unavoidable delays, you will be the first to know.
Your support is vital to the success of The Armenian Diaspora Project.
Any amount that you donate that puts The Armenian Diaspora Project over my goal will allow me to dedicate the entirety of the next year to the project and will allow me to reach more and more communities such as the large communities in Iran and Bulgaria, making this truly a portrait of the entire global Armenian community, so please - continue to donate and to spread the word!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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