The Armenian Genocide survivor who photographed President Roosevelt
B. Artin Haig, a 104-year-old American photographer of Armenian descent, has watched Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig play in Yankee Stadium and snapped portraits of Franklin Roosevelt in the White House, Journal Sentinel says in a fresh article.
Born Haig Artin Kojababian in Armenia in 1914, less than a week after the start of World War I, he survived the Armenian Genocide and 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 Armenia 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.
When he worked at Underwood & Underwood, Haig was also a White House photographer, and he snapped photos of the most famous Washington resident.
Haig and two assistants always traveled to the White House early to set up lights and cameras before President Franklin Roosevelt arrived. Haig got only seven to eight minutes to take as many pictures as he could — usually around a dozen shots — before the busy Roosevelt needed to be somewhere else.
“I would talk to him and when I got a good expression I snapped the picture,” said Haig.
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.'”