When Winslow Martin talks about Armenia, his eyes glow like a Diasporan talking about his homeland.
But Martin is not Armenian. He is an American from Pennsylvania. But one can truly call him an honorary Armenian for the work he continues to do in the country he fell in love with more than two decades ago.
Martin is a photojournalist who became intrigued with Armenia in 1999 as a photographer for the Watertown Tab. He was working on a series about local caregivers when he met the late Father Dajad Davidian of St. James’ Armenian Church. Together, they traveled to Armenia to complete his project.
Martin became so fascinated with Armenia that he continued to visit frequently. He developed friendships with locals and captured the essence of Armenia and Armenians through his photography.
“Why do I go back? It’s because of the people. I have a lot of good friends there now,” Martin told the Weekly. “It’s been an amazing journey. That’s what my play is about. It’s about how it affected my photography. And what I’m doing now is, I’m finally bringing it to the public in hopefully interesting forms, music and storytelling in Armenia.”
Martin will be sharing his work and learnings with the public in the form of a play called “We Wait For Your Return.”
The event will take place on Saturday, May 7th on the campus of Northeastern University. The play is a “visual and musical celebration of the beauty and soul of the Armenian people,” and it will feature music arranged by award-winning Armenian composer and vocalist Astghik Martirosyan.
Martin believes the play is his way of helping Armenia.
“Things are so difficult there, and the mood is so down. The Armenian family is fighting from within, and we really need as best we can to come together by doing our own work. Either with doing positive things like investment or what I’m doing in my field – to put a positive message out about who are Armenians. What is so great [about them]? What is strong about them?”
Martin has documented Armenia’s highs and lows during the last two decades. He says the 2020 Artsakh War left him “shell-shocked” because of the lack of worldwide attention it received.
“That drives me insane. And so anything, I mean anything as a photographer, I can do, I will do. A priest I worked with had this very simple saying – ‘it’s better to light one candle, than curse the darkness.’ So if I can light any candle for the Armenians, I’m there.”
Martin’s self-proclaimed love letter to Armenia was inspired by friends who would say to him upon his departure: “Menk spasoomo enk dzez”, which literally means, “We wait for your return.” That sort of genuine hospitality is one of many reasons why Martin fell in love with Armenia and why he wants to give back to the country that changed his life.
“If you ask for help, you’re going to get it. If you don’t ask for help, you’re going to get it. If you don’t want a cup of coffee, you’re going to get it.”
Then with a laugh, Martin joked that “Coffee Time” could have also been an appropriate title for the play.
“I am really excited and touched by this opportunity to build bridges between Armenians and non-Armenians, between America and the American-Armenian diaspora community in any way that people can come together.”