Considering the beginnings of genocide in our time.
The human spirit encompasses a love so profound and a will to survive so strong that it cannot be crushed, even in the face of unimaginable cruelty and overwhelming odds. Ancestral lands colonized and stolen, we were raped, trafficked and murdered. Those who survived were scattered in a global diaspora, cut off from their history and identity. These are the faces of survivors.
We know about the Holocaust, ethnic cleansing in Serbia, genocide in Rwanda; but the tragic trail of genocide that winds through the twentieth century didn't begin there. What are the roots of this societal violence in our time? The Armenian Genocide of 1915, ignored by the world, set off a century of slaughter on a monstrous scale.
The Ottoman Empire was crumbling. In the name of nationalism and the new Republic, the Ottoman government chose to eliminate its minority populations by killing or deporting them, as well as forcing the women into sexual slavery. 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered, along with Greeks, Syrians, Cypriots, and Yezidis. It was the twentieth century's first exposure to the dark side of nationalism.
Fierce Will uses the relationship of photography to time, history, and memory to banish the nostalgia of antique photos, and link them to the issues of our time. These photos reimagine history, inserting modern people, who look just like us. As I shared the stories of the survivors of genocide, including my own family's, the people you see in the modern photographs began to talk about their own histories, their experiences of violence, their own families' cultural dislocations. They began to inhabit the spaces left by those long-ago people in the vintage photos, embracing a new understanding of the fierce will it took to survive unspeakable violence. They began to imagine what it might have been like, and what it might be like in a world where we can say never again to anyone.
How do we imagine the future when our past has been so deliberately destroyed? Use these photographs to recontextualize the past, transcend time, know history, and reimagine the future.
Rescued Sex Slave, 1919
God Made Us Free
Freedom fighters, Armenia, 1895
My Soul To Keep
My Sorrow Your Shame
Rescued Sex Slave, 1920
Hovanes, from "My Family From Kharberd", Armenian Ottoman Empire, before 1907
Did You Walk Among Them As A Ghost
And I Will Die Free
Member of the wedding party, from "My Family From Kharberd", Armenian Ottoman Empire, before 1907