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Orkid Sassouni

Orkid Sassouni was born in Tehran, Iran, and was discovered to be deaf at age three.  She never went to the Iran School for the Deaf because her mother insisted that she be put in a regular school.  When the Islamic Revolution started in 1979, her entire family escaped to Europe thinking the revolution would soon collapse.  The family ended up settling on Long Island, NY, and Orkid was put in a regular public school and had speech therapy everyday until she graduated from Great Neck North High School in Long Island, NY, in 1990.  Orkid thought she was the only Deaf person in the whole wide world until she saw "DEAF PRESIDENT NOW!" on television!

Orkid soon decided to go to Gallaudet University.  Because she had never learned American Sign Language, she attended Gallaudet's three-week ASL Summer Program.  She eventually became fluent in ASL.  Orkid also had to struggle with her parents, whose religious and cultural beliefs did not allow an unmarried Persian girl go away to college.

Orkid graduated from Gallaudet in May 1995 with a degree in Art History and Museum Studies.  She was curious about photography and started with beginning Black and White photography at Gallaudet.  Later, she took more photography courses where she fell in love with the darkroom and studio using a 4 by 5 Sinar Bron camera.  This led her to advanced photography courses at the Parsons School of Design, where she spent one summer working as an archival intern in the studio of Annie Leibovitz, an internationally known photographer.

Orkid Sassouni has for the past three years worked as a Gallery Lecturer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Her lectures are given in ASL and she is the first and only Deaf person employed at the Met.

Artist's Statement

 "I have been photographing and still continuing my on-going project of and about Deaf and hard of hearing individuals for more than two years.  I traveled great distances around the east coast and the west coast to get inspiration for my photography project.

"What made me start doing this project in the first place?  I got advice from Annie Leibovitz, a well-known photographer who suggested that I photograph my family and Deaf friends.  I tried both to see how much I could capture.  Slowly, I started photographing more and more Deaf and hard of hearing individuals.  But soon my idea changed to more of a fine art of sign language and their life within me.

"I became fascinated with their pride, their energy, their most important tools in communication, their thoughts, and their self-conscious of the world outside.  Today, I continues with my photography project about 'Being Deaf and Free-Spirits'. "