“I am a woman who is not accepted by the society,” out of all the women I photographed, none would say this or anything similar. Yet every time any of them walks along the street people look with amazement. When I would see one of them in the streets I would look at them just as everyone else. There was strange interest and respect I felt towards them, so I decided to get to know them closer, talk to them, and take their photo.
Later on, the real meaning and importance of this photo-story developed. The women I photograph always separate themselves by dressing differently, wearing bright make up. If it is possible to live in our society the way they do, then it is also possible for Armenian women to make a step, and many steps, towards something more than what they have, activity, work and life.
Lora : I met Lora by chance on a street. She was walking slowly and proudly with a bag of bread in her hand. On one hand she was like any person passing by, but on the other there was something strange and outstanding about her. Maybe it was the slow walk after all, or her sunglasses that she never took off. We talked and agreed to make some photos. I had spotted a wall beforehand in one of the backyards around. This is where we went.
As I was photographing Lora I asked her some things about her life. Lora confessed that her husband is the town’s Prosecutor-General, and that she is an English professor at the American University in Yerevan. I never checked these facts, but I asked Lora to photograph her at home as well. She refused.
Aghun, or Aghavni, is someone for whom I had to search in a district in the suburbs, where they told me she would be. I spent half of a day asking about her and searching in every corner of this district full of apartment buildings. Finally after several hours I was able to find her apartment amongst all of those buildings. An elderly man a bit drunk opened the door, and told me Aghun was not at home but that I could wait for her inside. I decided not to and went away.
When I was walking back I suddenly saw her. She was returning from her day-long trip for water. She was wearing black, as she usually is, but her face expressed her desire to still be the beautiful woman. She said she was very tired and only the next day I took some photos of her.
Natalie is a wonderful lady I met at Moskovyan park sometime in Summer 2010. The woman sat on a bench next to a couple of men of her age, but did not talk to anybody. I looked around for a background before approaching her, the Coca-Cola ad was perfect.
Of course her name is Natalie, what else could it be with those perfect looks. She tells me she would gladly accept to be photographed. Later she does not give me her phone number but tells me she will call me to get the printed photos, and she never calls me, of course.
Narine : Some of my friends told me several months ago about Narine, a woman who catches everyone’s attention when she walks along the street, and they told me where she approximately lives. So I went and after some searches I found the place. Narine was not at home. It turned out that she lived in the apartment with her mother and daughter. Next day I came back and met Narine. She was everything I expected and even more. Very thin, with very high heels, and her face pale with make up, she was beautiful and very attentive towards her looks. When we took a walk she told me that she has lived outside of Armenia for some time before, and now she wants to leave again, but can’t.
Mariam: I saw Mariam on a street on a rainy day. The heavy rain had just ended and she was walking all wet wearing a wedding dress. I went up to her and talked, and it turned out that she couldn’t talk very well, which wasn’t very important anyway. There was not any special occasion for her wearing the dress, she was just going home.
Mariam told me her relatives sent her the wedding dress from America, and she liked wearing it time after time. She also showed me a picture where she posed in this dress and a bucket of flowers in a photo studio. I still see Mariam sometimes on the street, she doesn’t always wear the dress, but many times she does.
Tamara : She was the first one I met, and it was two years ago. Tamara came with her mother to a cafe near a place where I worked. Tamara seemed to be deep in her thoughts, concentrated on something. Her eyes were looking in one direction. Whenever I see her, since then, she always has this look. That first day we met, I made several photos of her. Later I lost the originals of those photos, and met Tamara once again to photograph.
Tamara told me that now that she has graduated school she is very interested in politics and even belongs to a political party. I saw her at one of the rallies of another party during the presidential election period, and asked what she was doing there. “I always have to be informed about what the opponent is up to,” she told me.
Weekend portfolio selected by Anne de Mondenard.