1890 - 1910s
In 1884, when Turkmenistan joined the Russian Empire, a number of new administrative centers and settlements emerged in the region. One of these was the city of Merv - or as it is called today, Marr – located in the Transcaspian region and named after the medieval eponymous settlement in its vicinity. A modestly sized town, Merv was inhabited mostly by Russian servicemen and merchant families. Among the immigrants were several Armenians, including Stepan Nazaryants, who opened the first photographic studio in the town. According to the 1899 issue of ‘Vsya Rossiya’ (All Russia) registry, Nazaryants’ pavilion was already operating in 1898 and survived at least until 1911.(1) The surviving photographs from this studio are, without exception, schematic and standard cabinet portraits whose significance today is determined solely by their socio-historical import.
Based in a very remote corner of Central Asia, Nazaryants’ practice is further evidence of the extent to which photography had become one of the most widespread professions and crafts amidst the Armenians at the end of the 19th century.
1) Vsya Rossiya: Russkaya Kniga Promyshlenosti, Torgovli, Selskovo Khozaystva I Administratsii, Togovo-Promyshlenniy Adres-Kalendar Rosiyskoy Impreii, A. S. Suvorin, St. Petersburg, 1899
Fotografiya S. Nazaryants