Culture

4PLUS, the photography collective providing a snapshot of life for Armenian women

4PLUS, an Armenian collective of female photographers, is offering an intimate portrayal of daily life in the country, through beautifully curated images. Founded in 2012 with the aim of not only documenting, but empowering women in Armenia, the project aims to provide a different lens to a narrative of everyday life that is commonly drenched in patriarchy.

While the country has recently experienced progress towards achieving gender equality, according to the UN development programme, Armenia still faces significant challenges. Domestic violence persists as a major problem, exasperated by a lack of accountability for law enforcement as well as a lack of access to quality education for young women.

It is against this backdrop that 4PLUS gains poignant importance. The photojournalism and art exhibited by the collective aims to bring the aforementioned issues to light and is committed to documenting the lived experiences of Armenian women by visualising cultural particularities. This helps construct a different narrative, one that emphasises the agency on individual day to day life, rather than the broader politics. Instead, the project brings these spheres into a personal purview.

Co-founded by four award-winning photojournalists, Anahit Hayrapetyan, Nazik Armenakyan, Nelli Shishmanyan, and Piruza Khalapyan, their website features a breathtaking and intimate portrayal of life for women in Armenia.

A notable recent project, by Piruza Khalapyan explores life in the remote village of Yerashk that lies close to the Azerbaijani border.

“Women living at the border must be stronger, they must even know some ways of being fearless or have special rules of security, otherwise, how do they live there, moreover, with children?” writes Ms Khalapyan.

The project spotlights a series of intimate snapshots of day-to-day life for the women living in Yerashk; the Herculean efforts of motherhood to baking the weekly bread, all a shared load amongst the female community. This sense of solidarity is particularly needed in the village, as many of the men travel far distances for work, writes Ms Khalapyan.

Her photos of Yerashk and its inhabitants are stunning in their simplicity. Beautiful, warm, and natural, they encapsulate day-to-day life so poetically, elevating the menial tasks of hanging up washing and curling hair to a work of art.

There is something universal about Piruza Khalapyan’s work, and much of the work seen on 4PLUS. While life in an Armenian border village may seems a world away to most, there is something about the photos that capture the essence of the lived female experience, the hardship, and beauty, that no matter where the images are viewed from – they feel very close to home.

Another recent photo essay by Arman Harutyunyan takes a deep dive into the youth subcultures within the capital Yerevan, particularly focusing on the widespread use of marijuana and the consequential impacts this has on the community. The project skillfully combines black and white portraiture with personal interviews about young people’s relationship with the drug.

Like much of the work done by 4PLUS, the photos are capable of transporting the viewer, while resonating with a deep universality through the simplicity of their images. In a time of lockdown and social distancing, a look at this all-female project coming out of Armenia’s creative scene provides a stunning snapshot of life with a new perspective that is greatly needed right now.

Photos: 4plus.org

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