Ariane Delacampagne was born and educated in Beirut, Lebanon, to parents of Armenian descent.
In 1984, after the Lebanese Civil War, she moved to New York, where she took classes at the International Center for Photography. Early on, she was interested in street photography and the vibrancy of street life. Schooled in the work of Gary Winogrand, Lee Friedlander and William Eggleston, she began photographing in cities around the world, among them Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing, Hanoi, Yangon, Luang Prabang, Fez and Cairo.
Long passionate about flamenco, in 2004, she won a commission to produce a series on the art form, which she loves for its lack of apology or concessions. Traveling in France, Spain and Japan, she photographed professionals and amateurs in their moments of pure raw energy and their explosions of joy and sadness. She explored flamenco as state of mind and a way of being, trying to capture the duende, the sacred breath that often bears the hallmark of a trance, a possession.
Her interest in her Armenian origins took her back to Lebanon, where she has recently been photographing the inhabitants of Bourj Hammoud, a mostly Armenian district North-East of the capital, Beirut. It started as a refugee camp and is today one of most economically and industrially thriving districts of Lebanon. The Armenians, however, started to leave the country at the beginning of the Lebanese civil war in 1975, in search of better opportunities elsewhere, a movement that kept accelerating with the turmoil in the region and that reflects the dwindling numbers of minorities remaining in the Middle East.
She works in film, both in color and in black white, and has exhibited in France, Spain, Lebanon, Morocco, and in New York.
The Flamenco Project
Commissioned to produce a body of work on flamenco for an exhibition in the South of France, Delacampagne started photographing aficionados taking flamenco classes at Fazils in New York, a dance studio where Fred Astaire, Jim Cagney and Gregory Hines once trained and now no longer exists. She continued her work at dance festivals in the South of France where she photographed stars such as Farruco, Bélen Maya and Mercedes Ruiz.
While she was in the South of France, she also photographed pilgrims at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, which is one of the largest religious gatherings of Gypsies in Europe and also home of the cult of Sarah, their patron. It is an occasion during which religious manifestations often alternate with bursts of joy and spontaneous dancing and singing until late at night.
In Spain, she captured dancers in the ancient Madrid studio Madre de Díos and artists in Sevilles tablaos, Jerez ferias and Cadix peñas. In the process, she discovered flamenco as a way of life. She recently published the fruits of her travels in Duende, Visages et Voix du Flamenco (Duende, Faces and Voices of Flamenco) with an illuminating text by Christian Delacampagne (lArchange Minotaure, 2007, France).
The Armenian Project
The Armenians are among the 18 religious communities recognized in Lebanon, whose political system is based on a sharing of power between the various confessions. The Armenians who lived in Turkey were deported or forced into exile after the genocide attempt that was committed against them in 1915 by the Ottoman rulers. They fled South of Turkey and settled among other places in a two-square mile swampy area North-East of Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, called Bourj Hammoud, where they started reorganizing themselves into a community. From shacks and refugee tents, they transformed the area into an urban town in the 1930s. The genocide survivors built two to four-story buildings and modest houses, with commercial activities and artisan shops on the street level. Churches began to appear, as well as Armenian schools, health and social services were reconstituted, with the help of the Armenian Diaspora, in order to help the elderly or the descendents of those who had only managed to flee by abandoning everything they owned.
The Armenians of Lebanon were able to integrate while being able to speak their own language, as the Armenian language continues to be a primary and natural medium of communication for them. The existence of numerous national and cultural organizations, educational institutions, and the Armenian-language press have created a distinctive Armenian atmosphere in the primarily Armenian-populated district of Bourj Hammoud, where one can see Armenian shop signs, side by side with Arabic, French or English ones. The area is extremely lively, authentic, and bustling with activity. However, because of the national and regional turmoil, the inhabitants are slowly starting to leave the country, in pursuit of better opportunities elsewhere.
Ariane Delacampagne has been photographing the Armenians of Bourj Hammoud for several years, now, in their homes, their artisan shops or their industrial fabrics, in their family surroundings, during their cultural activities, as well as in Camp Sandjak, which has now destroyed and taken over by real estate developers.
The Street Project
Ariane Delacampagne has been photographing people in the streets of South-Asia, the Middle East, and Europe for a few years. Beyond the jostling and bustling, she loves the concentration of energy and the authenticity that makes for a constant théâtre vivant devoid of pretentiousness and artificiality.