Michael Ovanes, St. Nersess photographer, continues to photograph construction on the Armonk campus and chronicle the progress from beginning to end. What inspired him to volunteer his time for this worthy project? We sat down with him in a Q&A session to find out more.
SNS: When did you become interested in photography?
MO: My dad gave me a Pentax 35 mm SLR for my 18th birthday as a high school graduation gift, and ever since then I have enjoyed taking photos, especially as I ski in the mountains.
SNS: Where did you learn the art of photography?
MO: I took a course at the International School of Photography in Manhattan, where I learned the technical side of photography. However, the composition, which is an art form, is very individual and really cannot be taught.
SNS: Besides St. Nersess, what other types of photos do you like to take?
MO: I love nature and people. To be able to freeze time and see things that are beautiful in perpetuity is what makes photography so interesting.
SNS: Is there a photo you are most proud of? Why?
MO: I am most proud of two photos I took on my Jerusalem trip in 2012 with Fr. Mardiros Chevian, and two winter landscape photos from the Sierra Nevada Mountains in CA. I submitted my photo from Jerusalem to National Geographic Magazine, as it captures the essence of the Festival of Light, one of the most holy days in the Armenian Church when a candle emerges from Christ’s tomb and lights all other candles. You can see in the photo a baby touching the flame of the candle and not getting burned, a miracle.
MO: I am very proud to be Armenian and be amongst my people.
SNS: What line of work were you involved in before you took up photography?
MO: I inherited my father’s fine jewelry manufacturing firm in 1980 and was the CEO for 28 years until I sold the firm.
SNS: Tell us a little about yourself – are you from New York, and what other interests do you have?
MO: I was born in Sofia, Bulgaria. My parents moved my family to America when I was only three years old. I have an older brother, Onik, who has been very instrumental in giving me great advice and still offers his help unconditionally. I am so very lucky to have had a father and mother who were such excellent role models… they led by example and not empty words. I miss my dad dearly as I owe everything I am to him. I have several other passions in my life: skiing, racing exotic super cars, singing, photography, and investing.
I have also sponsored two students from Jerusalem to attend St. Nersess Summer Conferences. It is an honor to help these students financially. Another way I like to give back to St. Nersess is by donating all proceeds on photos I have taken. If anyone is interested in my photographs, he/she can purchase a print by donating the cost to St. Nersess. If interested, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.