Moving to the West Helped Me Recognize Myself - A Talk with Artist Edmond Keshishyan
I’ve started following Edmond Keshishyan’s photo art since the end of 2015. Firstly, it’s the visual harmony that impresses you, due to its peaceful energy.
He was born in Iran, moved to Armenia at the age of three, and now lives in the United States.
To call Edmond a photographer or an artist is a little restrictive. That’s why, during this long-distance conversation, I stop asking "professionally" labelled questions.
Usually I start from the last impulse I’ve got from the artist. In your case, it was what you wrote on Facebook: "No matter what I do, no matter where I go, no matter what I think or what mood I am in, I see the presence of death, my faithful companion.” You conclude in a way that it’s that very presence that creates the significance of the moment.
Like this very moment ... Is there another moment? Everything I do, I say, I think, I do at this very moment - the only moment, the present moment. When I think about the past, I do it at present, too. When I think about the future, it’s still happening now.
You mean that the presence of death is in any moment, too, and, in a sense, that’s the present moment or death that "makes" you live. In your case, such moments are often documented by being photographed.
Yes, of course. If you live in one moment, then you should easily part with it: that’s the death. However, we are mainly addicted to life. Like any addiction, this cannot have positive effect. Being addicted, we want to stay forever young, we miss the present moment, waiting for another moment to live.
If you are awake every moment, if you realize that this can be your last moment, you stay in the present.
Sometimes you go to the village and see a 90-year-old grandfather planting a tree. You ask whether he believes he will live long enough to taste the fruits of that tree. He says he lives as if there is no death.
What I say, is that I can die tomorrow or at this moment. Which one is right? The most important is not to neglect the moment.
If I'm not mistaken, you're a musician. Why did you choose photography as a means of self-expression?
I'm not a musician by profession. I liked the drums and I enjoyed it. The same for photography. Yes, it’s a means of expression, like being a poet, an actor, a painter or a sculptor.
Perhaps that’s why I always avoid labels. For example, I’ve been a musician, now a photographer. Six months ago, I was working with wood. Yes, I love photography, so what? You need to feel and enjoy the moment. Nothing is as important as being awake, staying in the moment, staying with your thoughts, being where you really are, even if it’s unpleasant, not to deny it.
Apparently, people define their identity in order to present themselves easier to the public.
That’s right. We know the answer, but we always want to double check it. I don’t like putting labels, creating limits. "I'm a photographer, I’m this, I’m that”. No, I live, I appreciate the moment, the art of photography, art in general, the moment of creating, because it leads to a balance.
It’s not like I will say something that nobody else ever did, or it’s news. It’s our characters, our voices, vibrations, our energy that make us interesting. I say it this way, but at the same time I need to realize that I shouldn’t get addicted to what I say, either. Everyone puts their stamps on us; we are being molded. Enough is enough. I don’t want to be a dependent photographer who’s expecting something.
From the East to the West. Let’s talk about this.
While I was in Armenia, I was proud of it and being an Armenian. I moved to the West in 1988. Since then, I enjoy having my roots from Armenia. But it was the West that helped me recognize myself. It was here that I was able to go back, to myself.
You embrace everything, because you cannot escape, and there is no need to, because you’ve reached this point through it. Either you’re not satisfied with where you are, or you’re at peace with that. I feel at peace with being here, as I’m free from cultural and social “musts”.
The moment you realize your presence, you feel the importance of that liberating force. But this is a big responsibility. In this case, you can even be kept in the prison. You’ll already be free; it can do nothing to you.
But the West has its “musts”, too. Maybe the scale is very big, limitless, but it has clear definitions.
Yes, laws and definitions are everywhere, but people should realize that they have a right to freely exist. For that, I need minimal conditions.
Such people cannot be intimidated by law. There is an understanding that your rights end where another person's rights begin, so that you don’t abuse each other’s rights. America is an interesting country from that point of view.
It’s been a long time I am away from the city, sounds, society. I don’t expect anything from anyone, and that’s a great relief. I don’t owe anything to anyone, either.
Now people are helping each other way too much, but they are doing it only for feeling good. I don’t need that. I feel good, I love it. And we give names to that game - kindness, goodness. We are always told that we should do it. Why should I play by their rules? I don’t harm anyone, I just live. Who can say that I have no right to live?
Going back to your photos. There is almost no conflict in them, as they are out of the scope of human activity as much as possible. So you’ve actually found a place to be free. And it's a shot that you catch.
Taking photos is like a meditation for me. I should be there as a hunter. I seek for light: I’m a light hunter. For this, I need to be present in the moment, and if I am so - in harmony with nature, with regulated heart work - then the photo has its own unique energy. Because I'm there where I am, and who knows what will happen the next moment.
The important thing is to be present, be awake, in that moment. Peaceful love should be present everywhere. If not, everything will be useless and empty.
Photos courtesy of Edmond Keshishyan