1940 - 1950s
Artashes Jalalyan was one of the most active figures in Soviet-Armenian documentary photography of the 1950s. After graduating from the Cinematography Department of the All-Union Cinema Institute in 1934, Jalalyan returned to Armenia and entered Hayfilm Studio. At the time of Soviet cinema’s stagnation due to the Stalin repressive decrees, Jalalyan was practically deprived of the opportunity to work on film shoots and it must be assumed that it was during this period that he begun to work with the local press as a photojournalist. During the 1940s and 50s, his photographs were frequently published in Sovetakan Hayastan (Soviet Armenia), Ogonyok, and many other republican journals and newspapers. Of particular note are the many photographs taken in Armenia’s northern regions, which document the new construction and economic development projects in the aftermath of WWII.
These photographs of industrial, urban or natural environments make evident the create approach employed by the cameraman-DOP. Reality is entirely rearranged thanks to the solid compositional solutions, which divest the pictorial field of any random details that might disturb the narrative or ideological thrust of the images. At the same time, Jalalyan was able to convey a sense of dynamism and movement to these otherwise conventional propaganda pictures. One can read a distant echo of the Russian avant-garde film and photography masters, such as Dziga Vertov and Arkayi Shaikhet, in the multi-layered, geometrical and deep-focus arrangement of photographic space in Jalalyan’s works. Ultimately, these images adhere to the idealising principles of socialist-realist art, putting photography to work not towards an ‘objective’ representation of reality, but the latter’s ideological reconstruction.
In the late 1950s, Jalalyan returned to his initial career in cinema by lensing the features The Song of First Love, Northern Rainbow, Rings of Glory and a number of other popular movies. For this significant contribution to the development of Armenian cinema, he was awarded with the State Prize of the Armenian SSR in 1967. Our research indicates that Jalalyan stopped his professional activity in photography, after he resumed his duties as a film cameraman.
USSR, Armenia, ArmSSR
photo correspondent, photojournalist
‘Artashes Jalalyan’, entry in Hayastani Sovetakan Hanragitaran [Soviet Armenian Encyclopedia, in Armenian], vol. 9, Armenian SSR Academy of Sciences, Yerevann, 1983, p.469