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Elia Kahvedjian: The Invisible Photographer

This course was offered in Winter/Spring, 2014.

Lehrhaus Judaica and the JCCSF Katz Snyder Gallery present this breathtaking photographic exhibition of Pre-State Israel by Armenian photographer Elia Kahvedjian. The show will be on view from May 4 to June 21.

WallAbout the Exhibition
The photographs date back to Kahvedjian's earliest professional pictures taken in 1924. They depict the charm and beauty of some of the architectural, historical and cultural features from the early part of the 20th century. Some of his sessions were planned, but many of these scenes he stumbled upon with the camera at his side by happenstance.

About the Artist
Elia Kahvedjian was born in Ourfa, Turkey in 1910. In 1915 his family (including parents, siblings, uncles and aunts) was captured and killed during the Armenian Genocide. Young Elia was marched alongside his mother, who at the last possible moment, found an opportunity to save her son by giving him to a Kurdish man. Elia survived, along with an older sister he was reunited with 18 years later, but was not spared the memory of seeing his mother and remaining family members led away and executed.

The next chapter of Elia's tragic but miraculous childhood included being sold as a slave for five gold coins. However, when his "master" remarried, the new wife tossed Elia out and he found himself alone on the streets. Where exact years are unknown, Elia's recollection of his time alone includes many harrowing events and near escapes. At around 10 years of age, Elia was transported to an orphanage in Nazareth where he began apprenticing for a photographer. When he moved to Jerusalem in his teens, he began working at the photo shop that would later become his own.

In addition to becoming an accomplished photographer, Elia also amassed a collection of 1,400 photographs dating from 1840 - 1947. Elia Kahvadjian died in Jerusalem in 1999, but his shop, Elia Photo Service, continues to thrive thanks to his son and grandson. The shop is located in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem.

To order prints, visit http://www.eliaphoto.com.


Talk and Conversation with Laura Dirtadian

Join us on Wednesday, May 7 at 7pm for a talk and conversation with granddaughter of the photographer, Laura Dirtadian. She will tell the remarkable story of Elia Kahvedjian's survival as well as the story of how he became a photographer. Additionally, Laura will provide background on some of the photographs in the exhibition in more detail.

Call 415-292-1233 to make a reservation for the gallery talk, or arts@jccsf.org.


# Sessions
Date & time

Exhibition open:
Talk and discussion: Wednesday, May 7
7:00 pm

Session Time Days Location Instructors
May 07 7:00 PM–8:30 PM Wed JCCSF Laura Dirtadian



3200 California Street

San Francisco, CA 94118



Laura Dirtadian

Laura Dirtadian is one of Elia's 14 grandchildren and has lived in the Bay Area for almost 14 years. She graduated from UC Irvine with degrees in Political Science and International Studies, and minored in Spanish Literature. She had the opportunity to see her grandfather one last time and see the launch of the publication of his photographs in the winter of 1998-99 when completing a study abroad program in Spain and visiting her family in Israel during winter break.

Laura and her brother Kevin Markarian, who also lives in the Bay Area and is a graduate of UC Berkeley, were born in Ontario, Canada, and moved to California at an early age. She currently is a Vice President of Enterprise Risk Strategy and Integration at Union Bank and lives in San Mateo with her family.