Ani was the most celebrated capitals of Armenia in its time, being known as "the city of a thousand and one churches," which is open to tourists today to view the sacred ruins. Ani is part of present day Turkey just over the Akhurian river, forming the Turkish-Armenian border. The city is a reminder to Armenians of the massacres which killed over a million of our people, when the Turkish armies were ordered to "destroy the city" and all its people. The ruins of what was once a walled city are scattered across open land and hillsides, of mostly dry, barren land some with the grass around them growing over the rooftops and foundations of bare monasteries and cathedrals.
Recently Elle Turkey, fell under some harsh criticism after doing a fashion shoot at the ancient ruins of the city of Ani, where they were viewed as being sacrilegious in their efforts to "raise awareness about a global heritage site on the verge of disappearance." Ani is presently uninhabited and desolate, and has been for the last three centuries since it came under siege.
"Collectif VAN," is an Armenian organization in France, who described the setting of the photo shoot to be a stunning location, but no indication of the significance of this photographic location can be seen by the reader. There was nothing to remind us of the tragedy of our Armenian people who were forced to abandon the churches of Ani, which are seen to us as "jewels of Armenian architecture."
Posts have included comments indicating how it is not suitable to use the ruins for something like a fashion shoot, after people were murdered there and that the shoot is "pretty tasteless."
Some have questioned whether the shoot was done at this location in celebration of an Armenian heritage which is fading out in Turkey. It is hoped that this fashion spread could actually spark some interest and that people may want to know why such spectacular ruins were abandoned and what happened.
Others, were not too sure how they felt about the shoot, but had some positive words to say. Raquel posted in her "Fashion Inspirations" blog saying that it could be "beneficial to the memory" of the city of Ani, to have done the shoot where this city once stood rather than simply "neglecting" the history of these ancient ruins. She insists that will bring more positive awareness and the models are dressed appropriately.
The models certainly do stand out, but the sheer devastation and neglect of our once beautiful city, Ani is evident in the backdrop. Looking at these photos and seeing the rubble and the churches in ruins, has for Armenians opened up some old wounds. As this forgotten city fills the background of this fashion spread people will learn more about the tragic story of the memory of Ani.