Massachusetts State House to Display Photographs of Genocide Survivors

One-week exhibit by Ara Oshagan and Levon Parian

WATERTOWN, Mass.—The Massachusetts State House will display “iwitness,” a unique photography exhibit of portraits of Armenian Genocide survivors. The exhibit is free and open to the public and will take place from Mon., March 23 through Fri., March 27 in Doric Hall at the Massachusetts State House. Parian will lead a guided tour of the exhibit on Tues., March 24.

Hosted by State Representative Jonathan Hecht (Middlesex 29) and sponsored by the Armenian Library and Museum of America (ALMA) and the Armenian National Committee (ANC) of Massachusetts, “iwitness” is the work of Los Angeles-based photographers Ara Oshagan and Levon Parian. The exhibit pairs powerful black-and-white portraits of Armenian Genocide survivors with their oral histories.

Oshagan and Parian worked with a team of oral historians and created “iwitness” as part of “The Genocide Project,” which aims to raise awareness about the genocide through visual and oral documentation.

“We wanted to do something to somehow artistically reflect upon the genocide,” says Oshagan. “Even though we’re three generations removed from the actual fact, it is still very much part of our community and part of our consciousness.” The photos have been displayed in city halls, galleries, and museums, and most recently have been launched into a program to help teachers teach and raise awareness about the genocide in the Los Angeles unified school district.

The “iwitness” exhibit will be accompanied by ALMA’s traveling genocide exhibit, which combines statistics and other accounts in text and photographs in an effort to educate the public about the first genocide of the 20th century.
The one-week display will then travel to ALMA, in Watertown, where it will be displayed in the Museum’s Bedoukian Hall from Thurs., April 2 through May 2009.
About the Photographers
Ara Oshagan has photographed extensively in Nagorno-Karabagh for a book project with his father, well-known author Vahe Oshagan. Featured in Photo District News, the book is scheduled to be published by Powerhouse Books in 2009. His work from Karabagh also took third place in the prestigious Visions 2001 National Photographic Project Competition sponsored by the Santa Fe Center for the Visual Arts.

Working with the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, Oshagan received a California Council on the Humanities Major Grant in 2001 to photograph the Armenian experience of Los Angeles. This work, called “Traces of Identity,” was exhibited at the LA Municipal Art Gallery at Barnsdall Park from September to December 2004 and is currently on view at the Downey Museum of Art.

Oshagan also worked in collaboration with Leslie Neale of Chance Films on Juvies, a project documenting high-risk juvenile offenders being tried as adults in California.

Oshagan’s work is in the permanent collection of the Downey Musuem of Art in Downey, California and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Yerevan, Armenia.

He currently lives in southern California with his wife Anahid and four sons.

To learn more, and view the above-mentioned projects, visit

Levon Parian is an artist who works in the medium of photography to project his ideas and concerns. He is best known for his series of nudes printed on emulsion coated metal plates, like the Ferro-type process developed in the late 1800’s (tintypes). Some of his ongoing projects include the book “Lost Memories,” a series of short stories and water-damaged pictures from his childhood, and “iwitness.” His current work involves experimentation with stereo (3-D) film and still-cameras and viewers. His subject incorporates “the male gaze” and the complexities of human interactions.

Parian studied art photography in 1977 at Southern Illinois University and commercial photography in 1980 at Art Center in Pasadena, Calif. He completed his master of fine art degree in 2008at California State University, Northridge, where he is currently on the faculty.

Parian specializes in people photography and photomontage. His works have been exhibited throughout the world and have received numerous awards. Parian’s clients include MGM, DreamWorks, Warner Brothers, Columbia/Tri-Star, Capital Records, PolyGram Records, Epic Records, Electra, Toyota and others.

His work is in the following collections: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Library of Congress, Paradjanov Museum, Museum of Modern Art in Yerevan, Museum of Photography in Paris, Southern Illinois Univeristy Museum and the Downey Museum of Art in Los Angeles. His books Nudes and Scopophilia are available for purchase at

He currently lives in California with his wife Maro (an artist of theatre in her own right) and two children, Arthur and Sona, both 10 years old.

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Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.

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