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Milwaukee Independent
B. Artin Haig: The Armenian photographer that snapped portraits of Franklin Roosevelt
2018-12-17 16:46:52

B. Artin Haig, the man who survived the Armenian Genocide and became one of America's great portrait photographers, has shared his memories with the Journal Sentinel.

The photographer recalls taking photos of US president Franklin Roosevelt in the White House.

"I would talk to him and when I got a good expression I snapped the picture," Haig told the Journal Sentinel.

One time, Roosevelt's French cuffs were scrunched up and Haig helped the president smooth them out.

"The next time I saw him he didn't remember my name but he said, 'Are you going to fix my cuffs?' I said, 'Yes sir, Mr. President,' "Haig said."I was never shy to speak freely. I would say 'Mr. President, when I'm taking the pictures, I'm the boss.'"

He enjoyed taking pictures of politicians, famous actors and other prominent people. Haig can't remember their names now and no longer has their autographs because he would throw them away after a few days or weeks. Now he regrets tossing the valuable autographs.

Haig celebrated his 104th birthday in August. Born Haig Artin Kojababian in Armenia in 1914, less than a week after the start of World War I, he was orphaned at the age of 4 or 5. He saw his mother dragged away by Turkish soldiers; his father, a math professor, disappeared. His family was wealthy and among the ruling class in their Armenian village of Hadjin.

He fled the genocide and lived with an uncle in Constantinople, then moved to Marseilles, France, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, before immigrating to New York when he was around 10 years old.

Haig moved to Washington, D.C., and worked for Underwood & Underwood, a news photography company that had studios at hotels where brides would come to get their photos taken.

He later opened up B. Artin Haig Photography studios in the Milwaukee area.

At the age of 93 he traveled back to his homeland with his daughters, but his village had been destroyed by the Turks during the Armenian Genocide.