31 January 2014, 00:01
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Ara Oshagan: 'A Poor Imitation of Death'

Photographer Ara Oshagan has been honored by the website Social Documentary as its featured photographer for Jan. 2014.

Oshagan's work revolves around the themes of identity, community and bearing witness, and the gallery doesn't detract from that notion. The photo exhibit feature's Oshagan capturing the California prison system. The exhibit is entitled “A Poor Imitation of Death.”

A virtual gallery can be viewed at here: http://socialdocumentary.net/exhibit/Ara_OSHAGAN/2501

Since 1995, Oshagan has been photographing and recording the oral histories of survivors of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 -- a collaborative work with Levon Parian and the Genocide Project called iwitness. This work was published in the LA Sunday Magazine and exhibited at the Downey Museum of Art in 1999 and attracted national attention, being the main feature in an NPR Morning Edition story. These photos have also been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Yerevan, Armenia.

For over eight years, Oshagan photographed extensively in Nagorno-Karabagh, Armenia, for Father Land, a book project with his father, the well-known author, Vahe Oshagan. Featured in Photo District News, the book was published in 2010 by powerHouse books in New York. It was featured on multiple blogs and was reviewed by the London Times Literary Supplement and Mother Jones. Father Land was exhibited at the LA Municipal Art Gallery at Barnsdall Park from Dec. 2010 to Feb. 2011 and at the powerHouse Arena Gallery in NY in Dec. 2010. At the early stages of the project, it won third place in the prestigious Visions 2001 National Photographic Project Competition sponsored by the Santa Fe Center for the Visual Arts.

Working with the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, Oshagan received a California Council on the Humanities Major Grant in 2001 to photograph the Armenian experience of Los Angeles. This work, Traces of Identity, was exhibited at the LA Municipal Art Gallery at Barnsdall Park from September to December 2004 and throughout 2005 at the Downey Museum of Art. The exhibit was reviewed in Art Papers and artcircles.com and featured in the LA Times, LA Weekly and LA Magazine’s “Top 10 Things to do in LA” in Dec. 2004.

Oshagan's next book project is "A Poor Imitation of Death," a collaborative portrait of youth in the California prison system. This work grew out of the Leslie Neale’s doucmentary film Juvies. Exhibited at the Armory Center for the Art in Pasadena, it will be published by Umbrage Books in NY with a forward written by Father Gregory Boyle.

Oshagan has also received another grant from the California Council on the Humanities to photograph Ethiopian life in Los Angeles. Sponsored by the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture and working with author Rebecca Haile, we prepared Building Community—a multi-media presentation of how the Ethiopians of Los Angeles have built and are maintaining their culture.

In 2012, Oshagan was invited to speak at the TEDx Yerevan event, presenting a talk on the documentary Image as Identity. That same year, Oshagan joined a group of 16 artists from across the globe for the Shushi Art Project in the town of Shushi in Nagorno-Karabagh. He did a photographic/architectural installation on the theme of (Re)Population.

Oshagan work can be found in the permanent collection of the SouthEast Museum of Photography in Florida, the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, Downey Musuem of Art in Downey, California and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Yerevan, Armenia.

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