A very powerful way of changing the perception that people have of unknown areas of the world from blank, grey, faceless, and foreign zones into something centred around real people, evoking real human emotions, is through personal stories. The “25 Voices” project blends excellent portrait photography with some very human, poignant, and sensitive stories of the lives of 25 people in Artsakh.
During a 35 person pilgrimage across Artsakh, from Lachin to Gandzasar, Andrew Philip, the photographer, together with people from the group interviewed local people to compile this portfolio together with their stories. Through these pictures and stories one gets a great sense of the spirit of those individuals, some of the difficulties they experienced during the war, and since, and, their aspirations for the future. The stories are filled with hope and optimism.
The pilgrimage was arranged by the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART) and was led by Baroness Cox; well known to the people of Artsakh. Her intense involvement during the war, witnessing some of the worst atrocities in that period and being part of the re-building exercise and as a continuing friend to the people of this Republic, makes this Project most significant. Her work in Stepanakert has also led to the building of the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre which has become a Centre of Excellence for the treatment of a wide variety of disabilities. It is testament to the people of Artsakh that such a place is based in the capital, and that its facilities are used by people outside of the country where their own facilities do not have the requisite expertise.
I had seen the photos, previously, on the internet, but was pleased to see that HART had arranged an exhibition in London , and that Baroness Cox would be present. I have never had the good fortune to meet her so was looking forward to that opportunity, and to see the “25 Voices” in “person” rather than just on the screen. I am pleased that a few of the people in the collection are people I have met, or communicated with, so, for me, this represented a particularly special experience. It was good to see that, a small part of our capital city, had recognised the significance of Artsakh, and that everyone who attended had a fondness for this place, and for the people living there. It makes a change to talk to people in the UK who know of Artsakh, and have stories to tell of their times in that land.
The photographs were also supplemented by paintings from people who were being treated at the Rehabilitation Centre ; they had created some fine pictures, colourful and vibrant, beautifully capturing aspects of life and symbols of Artsakh.
My 7 hour round trip to visit London and see the exhibition and meet up with Baroness Cox was important for me to support the few occasions that Artsakh makes an appearance in our Capital , and to symbolically witness the “Voices” being “heard”. I look forward in the next week to meet up with some of the “Voices” in Artsakh, and hear them for real.
Categories: Life and People Artsakh