Anna Grigorian’s “Rainbow Project”
Part of our August issue’s “Camera Work” series dedicated to our favorite photographers of the moment, photojournalist Anna Grigorian is an exception in almost every way. A mother of two, and recent arrival from her native Armenia, Grigorian’s work is a testament to courage, pain, and resilience.
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This smart, sensitive photojournalist recently immigrated to Montréal from Yerevan, Armenia, after her home country started to look scarier for LGBT people. She had already come to Canada when Armenia’s only gay-friendly bar, the DIY, was bombed overnight in May. The fact that the bombing suspects’ bail was paid personally by a member of Armenia’s nationalist Armenian Revolutionary Federation Party highlighted the endemic cultural and religious prejudices that Grigorian was afraid would affect her two young children growing up.
“You see very vividly how society treats a new member when your children are young. Intolerance and homophobia are not built in one day, it’s a series of bricks that get built up,” she says astutely.
“Intolerance, labelling, and gender norms are the bricks that it is built upon. I realized I needed to give [my children] a choice to find their identity, not just ‘you’re a boy or you’re a girl and that’s it,’” Grigorian says, adding that corruption and military hazing are further parts of Armenia’s increasingly inhospitable environment for civil liberties.
Before the DIY bar bombing and ensuing homophobic political scandal, “all of us open-minded people in Yerevan lived in a bubble, thinking the situation was greatly improving,” she says of the period before the recent backlash. During the time of that bubble, Grigorian took this exquisite photo of David, a young gay friend of hers, in a decrepit building in a tucked-away part of the city.
“We went to a half-destroyed building and hid so as to take more intimate photos,” she says of the Rainbow Project series. It captures the fragile but unconquerable power of defiant queer youth in a country that seems reluctant to embrace all of its children.
Anna Grigorian’s work will be on display in the group show “Fairytales in the City” at Fleurbain, 460 Ste-Catherine Ouest, Sept 8 – Oct 13. Vernissage: Saturday, Sept. 8, 7-10pm.
Banner photo: “Gago and Nana” (detail) from Anna Grigorian’s Rainbow Project