STEPANAKERT (Combined Sources)–Mountainous Karabagh Republic President Arkady Ghukasian awarded well-known Canadian Armenian photographer Hrair Khatcherian the prestigious "Gratitude" medal on December 8 for his notable contributions to the development of Karabagh’s culture–since the onset of the Karabagh national liberation struggle.
Khatcherian remarked that Karabagh provides a source of creative inspiration not only for him–but also for all art and cultural activists in the diaspora.
Presenting one of his works to the President–Khatcherian thanked Ghukasian for the high praise.
Khatcherian has made photographic voyages to Artsakh on various occasions almost every year from 1992-1999–his vision motivated by the natural beauty of the mountains and the fields–the rich farms and historic villages–the ancient churches and monasteries of Artsakh. He has also visited Armenia–Turkey–Georgia–Romania–Lebanon–Cyprus–and the Island of St. Lazzaro in Venice–Italy.
Born in Beirut–Lebanon–Khatcherian always dreamt of becoming a pilot as a child. Instead–he spent most of his time in school fiddling with cameras–snapping pictures of anyone and anything that was around.
His dream finally came true in 1982–when he moved to the United States–and became a certified commercial pilot. He returned to Lebanon to pursue his dream–but because things did not go as planned–he returned to the US.
He then moved to Toronto–Canada in 1984–dedicating himself to freelance photography. He first visited his ancestral land in 1992. "Psychologically–I was prepared to visit Armenia along time before my first visit," says Hrair of that trip. With his photographs–he tried to capture the everyday life of Armenia’s.
Diagnosed with cancer in 1993–Hrair was in a stage so advanced–that he was given one week to live. His only option was enduring heavy doses of chemotherapy. On his 32nd birthday–he attended his first session. After five more sessions and a bone marrow transplant–he pulled through–calling it his "rebirth."
During his illness–the people of Karabagh and their troubles constantly occupied Khatcherian’s mind–making him even more determined to survive to return to Armenia; and ever since–he has returned many times.
In 1997–he published his first album–Artsakh: A photographic Journey–the story of Artsakh in 200 color photographs: its land–its monumen’s–its people–its culture–and its struggle. Khatcherian captured the vitality of the people and the courage of their struggle to be free.
The story of Artsakh is witnessed in these remarkable photos. Between the covers of this book–one will also find the story of Artsakh. It is carved in stone and written in books–scratched into the sides of hills; recorded in the village graveyards.
Hrair "Hawk" Khatcherian has used his camera to portray an ancient and beautiful civilization in an ancient and beautiful land. When asked about the nickname Hawk–Hrair explains that as a child in school–he had an American pen pal who had trouble pronouncing his name–so she asked him to come up with a nickname. Having a particular interest in birds–he decided to call himself Hawk. The nickname stuck–and now even appears on his passport. He says he feels a connection with this bird: they both like to fly–they both have good eyesight (in Hrair’s case–to see a photo opportunity)–and they both like to be alone when choosing a target.