The first monograph of London-based Syrian-Armenian artist Hrair Sarkissian—one of the leading figures working with photography globally today.
This cerebral book of multi-disciplinary essays and images explores histories of disappearance, the architecture of violence, and the potential of the medium of photography itself. While encompassing the moving image, sculpture, sound, and installation, Sarkissian's practice is rooted in his photographs. His lifelong use of a large-format camera relates to the artist's interest in the role that chance plays in capturing hidden narratives of conflict, trauma, and displacement. Acting as an archaeologist and a storyteller, the artist draws upon personal and collective memory to reveal stories that official records cannot tell. The viewer is invited to consider the formal aspects of the image, to breathe in its silence and to interrogate what might live beneath its surface.
Published on the occasion of Hrair Sarkissian's eponymous touring exhibition organized by Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm; the Bonnefanten, Maastricht; and Sharjah Art Foundation.
Hrair Sarkissian (born 1973 in Damascus, Syria, lives and works in London) is a photographer. He earned his foundational training at his father's photographic studio in Damascus, where he spent all his childhood vacations and where he worked full-time for twelve years after high school. In 2010 he completed a BFA in Photography at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam.
"I use photography as a way to tell stories that are not immediately visible on the surface. Employing traditional documentary techniques and using a 4×5 analogue camera, my photographic series consist of austere, large-scale images. The constancy and beauty of the settings, however, are at odds with the socio-historical realities that they conceal. Photography is my tool to search for answers related to my personal memories and background, and I use this subjectivity as a way to navigate larger stories that official histories are unable or unwilling to tell. I try to engage the viewer into a more profound reading of what lies behind the surface of the image, thereby re-evaluating larger historical or social narratives. Once people become aware of the invisible elements behind my work, the physicality of the image is almost destroyed. The architecture and surroundings of the execution squares are no more than a backdrop when you see the bodies hanging in your mind; the faces upon which the zebiba is imprinted are no longer individuals; the still darkness of the libraries becomes loaded once you realize what historical complexities these archives cover."