1920 - 1930s
Biographical details regarding this Armenian photographer based in the city of Zagazig in Egypt, have not come to light. It is only known that Varjabedian was not related to Garo Varjabedian, the renowned proprietor of Studio Garo in Cairo who worked between 1940s-70s.(1) The photographs made in Photo Varjabedian all relate to the 1920s-30s, after which the studio was most probably closed or changed owners.
The majority of the many dozens of portraits by Varjabedian which are known to us today are printed in the format of photo-postcards. At first glance, these portraits follow the international standards of studio photography of the period and display all the inherent features of the format, such as landscape backdrops, spotlighting and expressively theatrical poses. But upon closer inspection, the photographer's polished and fully-formed personal style and aesthetic outlook becomes tangible under the conventions of the genre. In photographing his sitters, Varjabedian did not limit himself to merely making pleasing renditions but attempted to create fully-fledged characterisations that ‘narrate’ and visualise the individualistic traits of photographers’ customers. In his portraits, people often perform certain actions that disclose about their identity or are placed in an atmospheric environment which imbues them with a tangible mood. By engaging his models in these self-representational theatrical set-ups, Varjabedian not only exposed traits of their character, but also emphasised their erotic appeal.
It is also fascinating to observe the gradual changes in the interior design of the photographer’s pavilion. The pastorally-themed backdrops painted in an ornate and romantic style were eventually replaced with three-dimensional geometric props in the early 1930s, which signalled the transition of local studio photography from pictorialist approaches to the style of ‘pure’ modernism.
1) This information was relayed to us by Garo Varjabedian's son, Vahe Varjabedian, in an email message sent on 13.08.2018
Lusadaran Armenian Photography Foundation, Yerevan