Dame Gulizar and Other Love Stories

Rebecca Topakian

2017 - 2021


In Dame Gulizar and Other Love Stories, I explored my identity as an Armenian woman through fiction and mythology. As my armenian grandfather, survivor of the genocide who imigrated to France, never talked about his life before France, I grew up with a strange feeling of a void I needed to fill. The only story he told his children and came to my ears was the love stories of my great grand parents : my great grand mother, Gulizar (“Rosegarden”) was a princess, while my great grand father Garabed was a merchant who made and sold basturma. Because her family was opposed to their union, he came to her door on his horse and kidnapped her to marry her. This story, that shaped my own familial and national mythology, bears an ambiguity that I relate to as a woman: who was Gulizar, and what were her desires – was the kidnapping a fairy tale gesture, or a patriarchal move imposed on her?

I went for the first time to Armenia in 2017, and worked on this project for several years, filling the void of my familial history and the absent story of Gulizar with my own fictions : a multitude of fictional love stories, set with men randomly met or casted on Tinder, taking place in an ambiguous lanscape, between magical and unsettling, sublime and hostile. Love, desire, war, death and sacred are intertwined. In between this photos, the real life characters of my familial story appear, analogically printed in the darkroom on stones I picked in the Armenian mountains (tuf, red and black obsidian, glass from lake Sevan).

The work is composed of about 80 images and will be published as a book as part of the Blow Up Press Award. More of this project can be seen on my website www.rebeccatopakian.com.

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  • Haig Topakian during his military service, circa 1930, France. Silver print, liquid emulsion on tuf.

  • Haig Topakian at his arrival in France, circa 1926. Silver print, liquid emulsion on glass from Lake Sevan.

  • Uncle Harut, circa 1920, location unknown. Silver print, liquid emulsion on brown obsidian.