A photo posted by President Barack Obama on his Twitter and Facebook pages after his victory in the elections was taken by American photojournalist of Armenian origin Scout Tufankjian. Scout was one of the photojournalists working with Obama during his campaign. Armenian News-NEWS.am presents an exclusive interview with photojournalist Scout Tufankjian.
One of your photo projects is called “The Armenian Diaspora Project.” Can you tell a little more about it?
I am trying to create a portrait of the global Armenian community through photographs and interviews, looking at large and small Armenian communities around the world. So far I have photographed communities in Brazil, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Jerusalem, Ethiopia, and the United States. I'm hoping to go to Russia, Bulgaria, France, India, and Argentina next.
You took photos of American Armenians. Have you ever been to Armenia? Would you like to take photos of people living in Armenia?
I have been to Armenia in 2002 with my father. It was a wonderful experience and I'm hoping to return soon!
Please, tell a little about yourself. Where were you born and where did your ancestors come from?
I was born in Boston, Massachusetts to an Armenian-American father and an Irish-American mother. My father's grandparents almost all came over to the United States as orphaned children. We know that one of his grandfathers was from Harput and that two of his grandmothers from one of the villages near Musa Dagh, but that is all we know.
How did it happen that you start working with Obama? Which was the most impressive about working with him?
I first started covering President Obama before he started running from President in 2006, when I covered a book signing he was doing in New Hampshire. I then spent the next two years covering his campaign for publications like Essence Magazine and Newsweek, and eventually did a book on the campaign entitled Yes We Can. This year, when the campaign was started up again, they called me and asked if I was interested in working for the campaign.
Do you think any person can become a photographer? Do you consider taking photos is a job or an art?
I think photography is a little bit of both. Anyone is capable of making one or two amazing pictures. The thing that separates a professional from an amateur is not so much talent, but rather is the ability to produce good pictures consistently, and this is something that can be learned if you work at it hard enough. So I would say that anyone who is willing to put in years of hard work (often with little reward) can become a photographer.
You have photos from Western Armenia (currently Turkey). Tell please what have you felt when made them.
I loved traveling through the parts of Anatolia that are historic Armenia. Because I grew up hearing stories about Harput and Musa Dagh from my grandparents, it was amazing to be able to actually be there – to see Harput Castle and to meet the Armenians who are still living near Musa Dagh. On the other hand, it was heartbreaking to see the rubble from the Armenian neighborhoods in Harput, and to realize how completely we had been erased. There were moments of light, however, such as an organization in Diyarbakir (Dikranagert) that is teaching Kurdish girls Armenian history and the Armenian style of silversmithing, so that our memory will not be forgotten.
You said you speak a little Armenian. Would you like to learn more?
Anshoosht! (Certainly!) I have a friend who teaches Armenian at Columbia in New York, and she has given me some lessons. Unfortunately, I travel too much to be able to commit the time I really need in order to learn.