Interview of Nazik Armenakyan, co-founder of 4Plus
by Mathilde Roger
“At that time [in 2002], you couldn’t see women photographers. It was something new, unexpected and it was a really male dominated sphere” explains Nazik Armenakyan. Starting her career as a photojournalist for “Armenpress” an Armenian news agency, she followed in 2004 a photojournalism course organized by World Press Photo. Aiming at training more women photographers, this course did not only drive her to turn to long-term projects with the series “Survivors” but gave her the impulse to establish, together with other women professionals, the documentary photography center 4Plus.
M.R. In 2012, you founded 4Plus, with other photo professionals. This is the first and only independent center dedicated to documentary photography in Armenia. How did the idea to create this organization start? What needs was 4Plus aiming to answer?
N.A. Before we established 4Plus (with Anahit Hayrapetyan and Anush Babajanyan), we had already held discussions about what we knew and needed. We had identified what kind of issues and problems there were in our field -no educational opportunities, no places to work, to gather and no platforms where we could see our work get published and exhibited. We also observed that many photographers were working on long-term projects, social issues and documentary projects. We found out that most of them were women, while men photographers were mostly working in the commercial sphere or combining documentary photography projects and commercials. A lot of women photographers, working on long-term projects, never had the chance to be published, recognized or exhibited. As a group of women photographers, we came up with the idea that we had to create something to face the problems we had and still have and ultimately develop documentary photography in Armenia.
Now when I’m analyzing, the education we received at the Caucasus Institute in Armenia in the frame of the courses organized by World Press Photo by Ruben Mangasaryan was a true catalyst. This education provided us with professional skills and helped us to grow, and maybe that was one of the main things that united us. We started as a collective and initiative and conceived a series of workshops. In 2013, we organized a group exhibition called “mOtherArmenia”, curated by Svetlana Bachevanova. It brought together ten female photographers and covered the most controversial topics. We also did 3 workshops -one for beginners, a multimedia workshop with the producer Adrian Kelterborn and photo editing workshops with Yuri Kozyrev and Andrei Polikanov. This initiative worked well and stirred interest. We realized we had to do a lot in the field. So we kept on working…
M.R. What are the themes usually tackled by photographers of 4Plus? Could you tell us more about the projects pursued by some of its members?
N.A. We do not have specifically targeted themes. However, 4Plus and the photographers publishing on the platform are usually focusing their attention on people, especially individuals and social groups living on the margins of the Armenian society. This leads us to cover issues and topics that are shrouded by silence and hostility that we try to visualize and bring to the public.
Anahit Hayrapetyan, One of the co-founders of 4Plus, is currently living in Frankfurt, Germany and is working on a long-term project about her native village Khtsaberd. This village is located in Nagorno Karabakh, which is now under the Azerbaijani control since the end of the war. She is now editing this project to make a book out of it. Nelli Shishmanyan is currently involved in other projects in parallel as she sings in the Hover Chamber Choir. Another member, the photographer Vaghinak Ghazaryan is one of the winners of the 2021 World Press Photo Contest .
M.R. 4Plus will be celebrating its 10 years next year. Which were the biggest challenges over the years?
N.A. At the beginning, we were not a well-known organization and many people didn’t understand why we were intending to empower women photographers. But I think the main challenge is to find funding for photography -locally and internationally. I mean, to create a website, to have long-term courses, to make documentary projects, organize exhibitions. Everything is very much politicized ; many things are linked with politics and it is crucial for us to be independent and never do something just because some founders would like us to do so. Other aspects are fine. We live in a small country ; there are many things that are hard to get, but we don’t consider it as an issue but rather as an opportunity to get things done.
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