4 Plus Documentary Photography Center


I’ve known Anush Babajanyan since 2006 when we worked together preparing the World E-Summit Awards in Yerevan. She is a dear friend of mine and recently she is the co-founder of a new project called 4Plus. The aim of 4 Plus is the development of Armenia’s photojournalism and documentary photography, as well as raising awareness about issues in Armenia through photography. In their work they touch many social issues in Armenian society, which are challenging and inspiring for the people in Armenia and abroad. 

I’ve recently interviewed Anush in Yerevan and here is the transcript.

How you got started and current situation?

“I’m one of the founders of 4Plus Documentary Photography Center which is not only developing documentary photography but also focusing on the empowerment of women, specifically female photographers in Armenia. We got started in 2012 but only got registered as an NGO last year. There are 3 photojournalists in the team and we are all on equal terms on this collective initiative.”

Who’s involved: roles and responsibilities?

“4Plus is an initiative by three Armenian documentary photographers, Nazik Armenakyan, Anahit Hayrapetyan, and Anush Babajanyan. All 3 of us do pretty much the same work and we share the responsibilities equally. We are involved in two main activities:

  1. We do personal and group photography projects and it is mostly documentary photography.

  2. Education - We organize workshops and lectures, invite photographers and other experts of photography from abroad who can teach a group of individuals something specific - photo editing, multimedia,  etc.

  3. Exhibitions - two years ago we organised a group exhibition of 10 female documentary photographers called mOther Armenia which was focused on social issues and human rights. It’s a way for us to confront the issues that we have to deal with or observe in our society. It’s mostly human rights issues bordering with arts, photojournalism (LGBT issues, women rights,environment, etc).”

Any partnerships?

“We do not have any long-term official partnerships but we have some friends (photographers, curators, etc.) as well as some organisations (US and UK embassies in Armenia among others) who care a lot about what we do and help us along the way. Two of our main allies are the Women’s Resource Center and  Open Society Foundation.”

What your main objectives are/why you do this?

“Our main objectives are to showcase the social issues in Armenia, to support women, documentary photography and ourselves as individuals. We do this because we came to realize that acting as a group as opposed to acting individually can bring more powerful impact and help solving the issues quicker than if we did it individually. We felt that we needed to get together and use all of our ability and experience, unite our backgrounds and knowledge for a more effective impact.”

What you enjoy about the work and what you enjoy less?

“I enjoy the times when I feel that what we believe in and what we have started this project for is working, happening, when I can see some tangible results. E.g. During mOther Armenia exhibition we had lots of visitors and lots of articles were written about the issues that we exposed and that is really important for us.

I enjoy less the obstacles that the society causes for us, things that work against us, like not being able to find the time for the projects. When, for example there is too much happening in our personal lives not letting us concentrate on our work. The society itself doesn’t necessarily support and push us, rather it is against us.The idea of a collective of women photographers getting together and doing something for the women is a new concept in Armenia and it is not really accepted in our society. The mood in the country is not favorable for any kind of feminist movements in general.”

Do you think it would be easier for you to work if you were males?

“Definitely. In general being a woman and trying to do some work has lots of challenges (family, children, responsibilities  at home), though it is not a big problem. The real problem is when men (partners, co-workers, etc) do not accept and support you and your work is not considered as important compared to men’s work. You feel doubt directed to you and you need to constantly prove/explain yourself as you are considered an amateur while a man is considered a professional by default. Of course, this is not only in Armenia, I have seen it in many muslim/arab countries but the difference with Armenia is that this problem is not so visible and it is mostly a pressure on a psychological level. In terms of what we are doing it a pressure on a professional level.”

What kinds of tasks do you do on a regular basis? Yearly, monthly, weekly, daily

“We set an agenda for a year, a plan for 1-2 workshops, several lectures and possibly an exhibition. We try to find funding for that projects to bring our ideas to life. We also do our own photography projects besides group projects. As for our daily routine, it involves quite some administrative work - we need to apply for funding, thus filling in application forms, participate in relevant events, thus contacting respective agencies that organize the events, exchange emails, etc. We also travel a lot in Armenia and abroad to participate in joint exhibitions. We have to organize all the logistics and administrative preparations for the workshops and lectures we are holding. E.g. Our latest event was  a meeting with John Stanmeyer- World Press Photo winner and National Geographic photographer. We had to take care of the logistics(finding the necessary equipment - projector, audio equipment, white screen,etc) and managing the event (inviting people, publicity, Facebook event, etc). This event took place in Zovasar, a remote village in Shirak marz, some 2 hours away from the capital. It was specially organised for Zovasar schoolkids in the school gym, where John was presenting his works to the children and guests from Yerevan. It was quite a success with over 30 people attending the event from Yerevan plus around 30 kids from the village itself. John did a retrospective of his work both for National Geographic + Times magazine and his projects in Armenia and it was really very interesting both for kids and the guests!”

What, other than money, do you think could help you in your work?

“Positive attitude and support of a more open and welcoming society would motivate us as opposed to the society  we live in which causes the issues that we turn around and document in our photographs.”

What help could you offer others and under which conditions (assuming no money is involved)?

“We could offer any help concerning information related to Armenia. We are related to the NGO sector here and we could help with establishing contacts with them. We can advice on human rights, photography and any information related to Armenia. We are definitely open to communication and partnership with similar collectives from other countries, feminist or photography projects, etc.”

What do you produce/offer Products or services that you currently produce?

“We produce documentary photography and organize workshops and lectures with the aim of educating the society.”

How do you go about doing this- what steps are involved?

“The process is as follows: three women photographers get together, brainstorming and creating ideas and then realizing them/making them happen.”

Technologies or processes used? Costs: What expenses are involved?

“We use computers, our brains and cameras of course. The costs are relative and it very much depends on the project.”

Who benefits from the work? Who currently supports it, how and why?

“The beneficiaries are usually other photographs, mostly female photographers and the society in the long run.”

Existing alternatives: Who else is doing similar or relevant work/offering similar things- locally and or elsewhere? Important players affecting the work? (locally and internationally)

“Actually there are no alternatives to what we do in Armenia. We are affected by local and foreign fellow photographers and NGOs like Open Society Foundation and Women’s Resource Center. British and US embassies have supported some of our projects too.”

Long term perspective: any Business or sustainability plan?

“We are going to continue doing what we do - workshops, photography and we hope to create long lasting educational programs and partnerships that would support us on a constant basis and that would last longer than a year, thus becoming more sustainable than right now.”

Transportation and logistics?

“If we have a big project, larger than one lecture, the logistics and expenses are usually included in the grants we are applying for.”

What do you believe are the most important projects locally that are relevant to the work you are doing at this moment?

“Probably any of the projects that individual photographers are doing, as well as women’s rights activism.”


Stretched photo?

Hi @Matthias, could you please help to correct the stretched photo above(the first one)? Thanks in advance!

@AnushBabajanyan - welcome to Edgeryders! Feel free to edit the wiki and add more information.

Not Matthias :slight_smile:

Anna we only ask Matt for help if it is tech stuff that is critical and cannot wait e.g. if the server is down or there is a serious bug. The image size is set by yourself in the WYSIWG editor. I can explain during the call on saturday

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Fixed. And something on formatting.

Thanks @Nadia :slight_smile: However I was already here, so I just fixed the photo. @Iriedawta, the problem was that the width and height were set to absolute values. In that case, when the width setting exceeds the visible width, the image width alone will be scaled down and it will appear stretched. To fix it, just double-click the photo in the editor, set “width” to “100%” (or another percentage value of you like) and “height” to nothing. Just do it for every photo you insert and you’ll be fine. The other two in your article had the right settings already …

On another note, I tried to harmonize typography in the interviews we do for our Future Makers Nepal project. Intros / editor notes in italics, interviewee answers in “normal font with typographic quotation marks”, section titles in bold. Since your draft is a wiki, I took the freedom to adapt it accordingly. Have a look and see if you want to adapt these conventions as well in your project.

Also note, when copy&pasting content from other sources like MS Word, a browser etc., I’d recommend to use the “Tx” on that text afterwards in order to remove nasty hardcoded formattings. They would mess up how your text appears later, even though you don’t see all of them in the editor.

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Thanks @Matthias, I noticed

Thanks @Matthias and sorry for disturbing, I noticed you were online and that’s why I asked you about the photo as both me and @AnushBabajanyan were trying to fix it in vain for some time already and I did not know who else could help.

I will adhere to the typography rules you have for Future Makers Nepal. Thanks for taking the time to edit this!

I usually copy-paste the text in google translate window(which i have open at all times) and normally that neutralizes the text. Never used the “Tx” before, thanks for letting me know about its function, very very useful :slight_smile:

Cheers

Feedback

Hi Anna,

thanks for this. My personal reaction is that after reading the interview I am not sure why their work is relevant to me as someone trying to improve something for my own community through art. How does what they do actually impact lives, or affect people in the community and what can I learn from their approach? Perhaps they are exceptionally good at engaging people who do not usually interact with documentary photography? Perhaps they have a great skillsharing methodology? Perhaps they have influenced or shaped public attitudes towards women?

Help us see what you see in their work, and in the way they work.

Perhaps they have clues for others as to how you can economically sustain creative work in new ways? Do they have any plans for how to become independent from grants or what do they do if and when grants don’t materialise?

I see there is something about the schoolkids, why did they choose to go there? And why John Stanemeyer?

Many questions… :slight_smile:

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Thank you for the questions @Nadia, I will update the wiki and include answers to your questions.

Just a thought: could some of your questions be included in the Interview framework?

Grant cycle :frowning:

It looks really interesting, but also fairly conservative from the point of view of the economic model, which seems to be based on the grant.

This is in part surprising, because there is a market for photojournalism. In the initial part we learn that Anush and her partners are photojournalists, but then the rest of the post shift to “documentary photography”. We could be talking about exactly the same shots, but the revenue model is different: photojournalism is paid for by media outlets, photography lives off grants and mecenatism (except when it does not, and photographers take on commercial work).

I cannot fault you, @Iriedawta: you did ask the question on business model (I would probably have been more insistent, but you asked). The answer was kind of generic and not very satisfactory, but I guess this is the answer there is.

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Sustainability

So I failed to mention that Anush & co also plan to have an archive and sell their works in order to be independent from grants. It is already happening but the revenue is just not enough to refuse grants for big projects.

Concerning their impact on the society @Nadia you are right, they are exceptionally good at engaging people who do not usually interact with documentary photography. Check out Anush’s Inlandish   and Nara projects which showcase all these special people in our society that nobody would have known about if it wasn’t for her work. Nara, for one, who is a blind single mother raising her daughter all alone, received lots of help from people once Anush shared her story with public.

The women in Inlandish project would never be regarded with other than ridicule if it was not for Anush’s photos.After this project people finally started to realize that these kind of people add diversity too our society and they are human beings just like the rest of us.

4Plus aims to take the education to the remote areas as opposed to the capital Yerevan where everything is based, so that is how they came up with the idea to do the workshop in Zovasar village. If you check their facebook page, you can see all the different international professionals they have invited during the past 2 years for workshops and lectures, John Stanmeyer being one of them.

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http://www.rferl.org/content/armenian-women-photographers/27567449.html