One Church, One Nation

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One Church, One Nation
Author Hrair Hawk Khatcherian
Publication Year 2013
Format Hardbound
No. of Pages 360
Language English, Eastern Armenian, French
Category Church & Religion, Arts & Photography

One Church One Nation (Մէկ Ազգ Մէկ Եկեղեցի)

Photographer ‘Hawk’ Khatcherian Presents Book at ALMA

September 10, 2013 at 1:12 pm Tom Vartabedian

WATERTOWN, Mass.—Two qualities become evident whenever photographer Hrair “Hawk” Khatcherian puts on a demonstration. His pictures are indelible, and he travels the extra mile to capture them.

A book launching Sept. 4 at the Armenian Library & Museum of America (ALMA) of his 10th work brought out the very best his work has to offer. The museum has been a familiar stomping ground for the photographer. “The door is always open for me here,” he acknowledged.

Titled, One Church, One Nation, the latest volume is a compilation of Armenian churches from around the globe, a mission that was as exhausting as it was rewarding. It’s been a work in progress ever since the outset in 1993.

What you may know about the 52-year-old artist is that doctors gave him 10 days to live as he lay on a hospital bed, suffering from terminable lung cancer.

What may not be so obvious was the fact his mother-in-law Araxie was diagnosed with breast cancer at the same time. This book is dedicated to her.

“She died holding my hand and passed along the rest of her life to me,” Khatcherian revealed. “I had 10 days to live, not 10 days to die. That was 20 years ago and I’m still around.”

So are his cameras and books, along with an insatiable desire to put his unbridled energy to work preserving Armenian culture and history. He made an extraordinary vow in 1993 on what appeared to be his deathbed.

He promised God that if He allowed to him to live, he would photograph every Armenian church in every country of the world. Twenty years later, that vow has been maintained, living only for and by Armenia, Artsakh (Karabagh), and all the fundamental references, values, and benchmarks of the Armenian world.

Born in Lebanon, Khatcherian moved to Canada in 1984, working out of the Armenian community center in Montreal. He has participated in activities related to the movement of Artsakh, becoming profoundly aware of his roots, origins, and Armenian national identity.

“Hawk represents the Indiana Jones of the camera world,” said museum curator Gary Lind-Sinanian, in his introduction. “He looked death in the face and walked away from it.”

Khatcherian was working all cylinders at ALMA in his approach to cover every church he documented. Many of the images on the screen were shown in multiple sequences with short commentaries, just enough to whet the appetite and give viewers an international glimpse.

Pictures were taken in the rain or under a scorching sun, dangling from cliffs and cupolas or while threading his way into uncharted and prohibited areas to get the desired shot.

A picture of a worshipper passing through a ray of sunlight at Gandasar and another of children lighting a candle, glowing with incandescence. Churches in ruins and intact, silhouetted by the moon and basking in the sun.

“Photography is about planning and patience,” he says. “Sometimes it’s luck. You wait for the right moment.”

From Armenia to Karabagh to Jerusalem and Lebanon he traveled, hitting both Americas and the Far East in his mission. It took him two years to secure a visa for Kuwait.

Dressed like he would be on Mount Aragats, Khatcherian spoke with no notes and without a hitch in his voice. He begged some indulgence at elaborating a bit on such favorite places as Ani, Aghtamar, and Noravank.

The photographer is also a man of deep-rooted conviction who speaks his mind.

“Our jeweled churches are being left to decay while we build new places of spiritual worship,” he pointed out. “Many of them are not being attended. We must make every attempt to preserve the old.”

“I’ve seen every rock imaginable,” he said. “Every time I visit there, I find something different to shoot. I want the new generation to continue my journey. We cannot do it alone.”

The next day, Khatcherian was off to Chicago, then back to Armenia and Turkey by mid-September. His itinerary may be filled with detours, but it knows no end.