1920 - 1930s
Ramses was one of the most popular early-20th century photography studios in Cairo, yet its diverse output has been sidelined in the critical scholarship on Egyptian photography. The Armenian proprietor of the studio – whose name has come down to us through a business directory published in the 1930s – has left few traces of his biography and it is not known when he arrived in Egypt and how he came to open his studio on rue Mohamed Aly 150.(1)
The large number of Pachinian’s studio portraits date from the early 1920s to late 1930s. What is immediately striking in these photographs is Pachinian’s penchant for atmospheric lighting, theatrical set-ups and opulent decorative backdrops that clearly gesture to the influence of silent Hollywood melodramas and European fashion photography of the 1920s. This was to be expected, since Ramses’ clientele, was primarily made up of affluent or middle-class Egyptians who wanted to evince an image of aristocratic pedigree, sexual desirability and cultural progressivity. This heightened performativity of Pachinian’s portraits prefigures the more elaborate aesthetic experiments of later photographers such as Angelo and Van Leo.
1) ‘Armenians in Egypt – Cairo’, https://bluebirdmaps.com/2017/11/11/armenians-in-egypt-cairo/