“I love photography, because it is a democratic art. Everyone can do it. Everyone can be creative in his or her own way. I see art in everything.”
Angélique Sanossian sees the world through the eyes of a photographer. Criss-crossing the globe from Syria to Lebanon, the United Kingdom to the United States to finally settle in Denmark where she makes her home today, she finds the art in the minutia of daily life wherever she goes.
Angélique, an alumna of the AGBU Lazar Najarian-Calouste Gulbenkian School in Aleppo and the New York Summer Internship Program (NYSIP), has recently donated her photography to the AGBU Humanitarian Emergency Relief Fund for Syrian Armenians campaign to raise awareness about the plight of Armenians in her native country.
In our conversation, Angélique describes the spirit of vitality of her final years in Aleppo before the war, reflects on the art of photography and gives us insight into the inspiration behind her projects.
What was your childhood like growing up in Aleppo?
It was a great place to grow up—very cosmopolitan. I actually didn’t have very many Armenian friends until I started at the AGBU Lazar Najarian-Calouste Gulbenkian School in ninth grade. We spoke Armenian at home, but I had gone to French and Arabic school. After starting at the AGBU school, my life changed a lot. I became part of the Armenian Youth Association (AYA) scouting movement: first as a scout, then as a leader and board member.
It was very easy to be part of the Armenian community as a kid: you have your school, your club, your sports. It’s only as we grow up that we need to start putting thought in how we are going to stay a part of the community, or not.
How was the atmosphere in the years before the war?
The sad part is that when I started to love my country back, I lost it. I studied business and marketing in the UK for three years and came back to join the family business selling mechanical hand tools and garage equipment. I’m the oldest child in my family, so my dad was depending on me to continue it. I worked with him in Aleppo for seven years, but it was a job. It was never my passion. I love art and humanitarian work. I love to help and volunteer.
I used to work with my dad until lunchtime and in the afternoon do something totally different. In those final years, I put together leadership and community development workshops, learned basic Arabic sign language to hold basketball and other activities for deaf children, organized a PechaKucha event for an audience 400 people where artists shared their ideas on architecture, photography, digital design and graphic design. I also helped organize an international photography festival that brought artists from all over the world to the small city of Aleppo. We had loyal people. We had a community, but this was the last year before everything vanished. These were the rosy days in Syria.
What do you think photography can convey that other media cannot?
I love photography, because it is a democratic art. Everyone can do it. Everyone can be creative in his or her own way. I see art in everything. Sometimes even when I don’t have a camera with me, I take mental images. My eyes are always working and noticing small details. Sometimes, though, it’s easier not to see things.
Which photography project are you most proud of?
I would have to say Mouhararat, which translated very literally, means taboo. The name of the project is derived from the word harām, which has two meanings in Arabic. It can be used to describe something forbidden, or something that a person would be punished for, while also describing inviolate zones and sacred places. Mouharamat is the plural of harām and is used for this project to depict the consecration of certain acts.
The project was a response to the destruction of cultural heritage in Syria. The same city that inspired me most is now in ruins and for some time I lost my inspiration. However, the more I read the news, and the more I contemplated pictures of the wreck that my city had turned into, the more I accumulated strength to rise from the ruins in order to speak through my pictures. My project reveals the hypocrisy of our world and the incoherent logic we are willing to stick by.
For more information of the AGBU Humanitarian Emergency Relief Fund for Syrian Armenians where Angélique’s photos are featured, please click here.