There are photographed stories to which I want to go back again from time to time. In 2013 I had made a portrait series of the musicians of the Music Collectives of the Union of The Blind in Armenia and Folk Musical Instruments Band. I thought to photograph one of the young singers Arpineh Martirosyan. We made an appointment to meet. The revolution in April and other events postponed our meeting until this summer.

The Soviet times’ interior, the worn out curtains, the floor, the broad and light music hall with its high ceiling: almost nothing has changed. Though it is a rehearsal, the performance of the singers excites me. 

Karo Aleksanyan is sitting in the center of the stage, who is the director of the music band since its opening day. Sometimes he interrupts the performance of the choir abruptly. “What you sing, is not about heavy rain, it’s about dropping rain, the powerful is restrained,” he says.


The Music Collectives of the Union of the Blind doesn’t go through its best times. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the choir hasn’t received a state status. Since 1976, the day of its opening, it is an important place for the blind or partially blind. It is the only working place for most of them. The Collectives involve 60 singers, musicians blind or partially blind.


From left to right: [1] Karo Aleksanyan, 68, is the director of the choir since 1976. [2] The choir singers Nelli Ghandilyan and Hasmik Mkhitaryan. [3] Arpineh Martirosyan in the corridor. [4] One of the choir singers Vahe Kocharyan (from the left) attends the rehearsals accompanied by his brother. [5] The director of the Music Collectives of the Union of the Blind Vrezh Manukyan, 27. [6] Hakob Grigoryan is the accordion player of the Folk Instruments Band since 2008.[7] Susanna Buniatyan, 70, is with the Union of the Blind for 43 years now. She is the HR, and the cashier. [9] Sonik Deghoyan, 70, is the accountant of the choir since the day of its foundation.



When she was little, she was not able to look at the sun, and would think that all the people were like that. They discovered a minor problem with her vision when she was in her first grade. But she was in the condition of photophobia, which later entailed secondary glaucoma. They would measure her eye pressure in the hospital in the morning and evening. She was released from the hospital with them telling her that her eye pressure was very high. They prescribed nothing, no surgery took place. Some years later acute headaches began. Her vision would worsen abruptly after each headache. She was not able to see the lines written on the blackboard at all. 

The problem got serious. The next doctor said what happened was not reversible. The central nerve of the eyes was already damaged, it was not possible to treat. It was just possible to stop the process and keep her minor vision. She couldn’t imagine going back to school. Losing her vision gradually, she lost her interest of the outer world. She made a decision in her ninth grade that she wouldn’t go to school any more. There was no second opinion, no one convinced her. Arpineh stayed at home.

Ten years later Arpineh took up the phone one day and called Spyur information center. She asked what there was for the people with eyesight problems in Armenia. They said there was a Union of the Blind. She called the Union of the Blind, they said there was a choir, would that work? She was happy. She went there, they accepted her. They understood though she didn’t have an education, she had musical abilities.


Since the images are blurred, Arpineh is directed by sounds and bright colors, sometimes sensing with her hands. It became possible to see the voice, to learn singing in the choir. Later she decided to get that as her profession. This year Arpineh has graduated from the Conservatory, received a master’s degree from the Department of Classical Singing with a diploma with honours.



Details and an archival photo from the music hall and the office of the Music Collectives.


When Eyesight is Impossible.

It is not possible to live by rejecting yourself. Firstly I accepted myself, how I am. At the beginning I didn’t want to be noticed, it seemed to me that I was protecting myself like that. Often they don’t know how to react in the streets, especially older people. Instead of offering his help a man once shouted – poor girl. Young people are more ready to help, they are more flexible. It has happened often, when they have just approached and asked how can we help you? Or may I help you? They integrate by helping, not the opposite.



“This photo story was funded through a Department of State Public Affairs Section grant, and the opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed herein are those of the Author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of State.“