Out of Dark Places

A photographic journey through post-Communist Armenia and the story of two Armenians fighting to restore their once proud country.

All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.
— St. Francis of Asisi

Despite the ornate beauty and warm light raking through the windows on the top floor of the National Gallery, I sensed a quiet sadness in the room that seemed to mirror the dolor present in so many aspects of Armenian life.

I was there to direct a short film about a creative learning center called Tumo. Built by Sam & Sylvia Simonian, two passionate Lebanese-born Armenian diasporas currently living in The States, Tumo was designed to offer a hope for a people who have known mostly grief and persecution for centuries.

In the beginning of the fourth century, King Tiridates established Christianity as the sole religion of Armenia and, in doing so, created the world's first Christian state. However, Armenia was surrounded by peoples who persecuted them for their beliefs, so they fashioned sanctuaries in the sides of mountains.

Sixteen-hundred years later, the people of Armenia again found themselves under the heavy hand of persecution as the Ottoman Empire (present day Turkey) systematically tried to destroy the Armenian people. Again, the people were forced to flee, but this time it was to neighboring nations and far away countries — Russia, France, the United States, Lebanon.

Today, Armenia flounders in a post-Soviet identity crisis and counts only a fraction of its once proud land inside its modern borders. It seems that their culture, like that grand ballroom, might continue to steep in sadness but for those long rays of afternoon sun, like Sam & Sylvia, raking through the room.

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