On Diana Markosian

Figure 1: Diana Markosian (2014) Armenia. 2014. This is the closet thing I had to an image of my father. A cut out of him in my mother’s photo album. An empty hole. A reminder of what wasn’t there.

In her work titled ‘Inventing my Father’ Markosian deals with the absence of her father, who exists as only memories and cut out of photographs in her family album (Fig: 1). The work wonderfully puts together archive images and her own photography. I quite like the way that she combines the colour archive with her own black and white imagery (Fig: 2) as if to invert the idea of black and white being of the past – the fade and colour shifts in the archive does that in a really natural way and her images create a visual break to show her own investigations.   

Figure 2: Diana Markosian (2014) Armenia. 2014. I am standing in the courtyard of my father’s home. It’s the same gray, decaying Soviet building I remember as a child. You could say I’ve come home. But that’s not how it feels.

Figure 3: Phil Hill (April, 2021) Archive database of image captions for FMP project

I have been working to create captions and text to accompany my images. Initially, I was looking at the idea of describing the image in a literal way and created a database of all of the images that I have photographed and archived myself (Fig: 3). The idea is that my eventual sequence would be as subjective and edited as any of the narratives that I have, or that the reader might have of the work. This could work as a booklet with every caption, numbered, for the reader to work through and find the ones associated with the book. This very much was inspired by Barthes’ famed winter garden image of his mother (1993), which is never seen and may have never existed at all (Photoworks, 2013). This literal description however, may not be working and I actually quite like the way that Markosian has captioned her imagery with a personal reflection about her father (Fig: 4). This could be a way of creating the narrative within my work and potentially I could create a kind of ‘Flash Fiction’ story broken up into the image sequence.

Figure 4: Diana Markosian (2014) Armenia. 2014. When I would ask my mother about him, she would look at me disappointed, “Forget him. He’s gone,” she would say.
Figure 5: Karl Ohiri (2013) from ‘How To Mend A Broken Heart’

Figure 6: Quetzal Maucci (2020) from ‘
Baci, Piccoli Baci, Grandi Baci’

One of the most striking images in Markosian’s series is the cut photographic print (Fig: 1), another example of the ‘Manual Intervention Photographs’ that photographers, such as Karl Ohiri (Fig: 5), and Quetzal Maucci (Fig: 6) have used to great effect in their own series. Markosian notes of the photograph: “For my mom, the solution to forget him was simple. She cut his image out of every photograph in our family album. But those holes made it harder for me to forget him” (2015). This validates an earlier discussion that I had regarding these kinds if images, which create more questions than anything that are conceivably aiming to hide (Fig: xx). I wonder why you would keep the image at all. It would also be worth noting that Markosian’s mother took her and her brother to the US when Markosian was seven, without telling her father where they were going. Presumably, Markosian’s mother took the family albums with her – including all of the images if the father. The object remains precious, even under times that are understandably stressful.

Figure 7: Phil Hill (February, 2021) Discussion the unreliable narrator and manual intervention photographs

Return of the object

There are a number of objects within the archive that I need to consider in terms of the way that they are part of the project.

I have considered the concept of Object Orientated Ontology (OOO) previously, the idea that objects exist in a far more complex way than humans are able to interpret them, as Graham Harmon states: “all of the objects that we experience are merely fictions: simplified models of the far more complex objects that continue to exist when I turn my head away from them, not to mention when I sleep or die” (2018, p. 34). In my own reflections, I considered the way that we view the world in a anthropocentric sense yet objects can exist outside of this, including ideas that ‘agency’ may also evoke the way in which the qualities and characteristics of even inanimate objects may have an impact on the reading of them.

It is a recurring theme in the work that I am reviewing as part of my research. In an anthropological sense, objects in the absence of the person are what can be used to try and understand them. A material culture (Engelke, 2017, pp. 6-7) show all of the items that we collect and hoard to build a picture of the person. Of course, this also has it’s subjective limits and is unreliable.


Barthes, R., 1993. Camera Lucida. London: Vintage.

Engelke, M., 2017. Think Like an Anthropologist. London: Pelican Books.

Markosian, D., 2015. Diana Markosian: Inventing my Father. FT Weekend Magazine, 3/4 January, pp. 12-15.

Photoworks, 2013. The Great Unknown. [Online] Available at: https://photoworks.org.uk/great-unknown/ [Accessed 07 February 2021].

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