1900 - 1910s
The urban population of the Armenian provinces of the Russian Empire at the end of 19th century – in Yerevan, Alexandrapol, Gavar and Kars – consisted of different nationalities, including the Greeks. This Christian community was closely involved in the cultural and urban life of Kars and Alexandrapol and had close relations with the local Armenian residents. Together with the Armenians, the Greeks were also active in photography and managed some of the best-known photographic ateliers in the region between the 1880s and 1920s. Among these was S. Grammatikopoulou’s ‘Central Photography’ in Kars. Judging from the photographs that have reached us, the institution was established in the early 1900s and operated until World War II. It was located on one of the central streets in Kars – the Alexandrovskaya.
The photographs produced by Grammatikopoulou’s pavilion are predominantly cabinet portraits and full-plate ensemble sittings. As evidenced from the clothing and inscriptions of his portraits, a considerable number of photographers’ clients were the servicemen from the Russian military base in Kars, as well as their families. According to the info on the studio’s seal, Grammatikopoulou was awarded by Prince Vorontsov-Dashkov – the special imperial envoy in the Caucasus – probably for his services to the Russian army. Nevertheless, the photographers’ general customer base was comprised of the local Armenian, Greek and Georgian residents of Kars.
Much like the Armenian photographers of Kars, Grammatikopoulou had furnished his pavilion according to the aesthetic requirements of the time and also offered life-size photographic enlargements. There were several types of painted backgrounds, decorative props and western-style furniture. Their use was conditioned purely by the need to create a ceremonious environment, as Grammatikopoulou’s portraits do not display any other creative intentions. His photographs provide important historical, ethnographic, and socio-cultural information about the everyday life and habits, as well as the interconnected fabric of this multicultural society at the dawn of the twentieth century.
Armenia, Russian Empire
History Museum of Armenia, Yerevan; Museum of National Architecture and Urban Life, Gyumri; National Library of Georgia, Tbilisi