SHOWCASE: THE GHOSTS OF ARMENIA
Celina Fang

New York Times
May 28 2009

The shadow of a train runs along the Baghdad Railway, used by the
Turkish government to deport thousands of Armenians in 1915. In the
window, there is a figure of a traveler, the photographer herself:
Kathryn Cook. The image, among the first in her photo essay, "Memory
of Trees," conveys the sense of a personal journey into a historically
resonant landscape.

Ms. Cook's project takes the viewer through a series of sites
associated with what Armenians insist was a genocide under Ottoman
rule in Turkey during World War I: villages in Turkey that were
forcibly emptied by the Ottoman army, the churches and abbeys in
Jerusalem to which the refugees fled. One photograph shows children
playing in a courtyard in Bitlis, a town that was once predominantly
Armenian. The children's movements are blurred, ghostlike. Many photos
emphasize the emotional tonality of the story rather than documenting
specific events. A view of a ruined castle in an area that was once
an Armenian kingdom conveys a feeling of loss; the tall grasses and
crumbling walls evoking a neglected cemetery.

Ms. Cook has said that "Memory of Trees" focuses on the ways in
which the denial of history manifests itself visually. (The Turkish
government has long disputed that a genocide occurred.) She submitted
this piece and another on the Rwandan genocide to the 16th annual
World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass. As one of 12 participants
selected from 179 candidates, Ms. Cook has been invited to produce
a photo essay on "Touch," the theme of this year's program.

Ms. Cook, 29, is from Albuquerque, N.M. She attended the University
of Colorado at Boulder, was a freelancer at The Miami Herald and then
moved to Guatemala. She worked for The Associated Press in Panama from
2003 to 2005. She is now based in Rome. In 2007, she was selected by
Photo District News as one of 30 emerging photographers to watch. In
2008, she won Magnum Photo's Inge Morath Award.

Santiago Lyon, director of photography at The Associated Press and one
of the judges for the Masterclass, says Ms. Cook's work "is sensitive,
it's thoughtful, it makes use of atmosphere and texture."

"And her framing is interesting," he added, "she doesn't do that in
a conventional way."

Ms. Cook is pregnant. She has wrestled with the question of being a
woman in the field of photojournalism.

"It's an issue that isn't really discussed a lot, but for women it's a
huge decision -- being pregnant and working and taking time out," she
said. She is looking forward to working on this year's assigned theme.

"'Touch' is particularly wonderful because I'm going to try to make it
a personal project and reflect on my slow change into motherhood. I'm
still developing the project but I think it will be about reconnecting
with family."