Shavarsh, Hrachiki Vardanyan
1970 - 2010s
Shavarsh Vardanyan is one of the more interesting, albeit little-known representatives of Armenian photography from the 1980s. He received his professional specialisation as a camera-operator at the Moscow All-Union Institute of Cinematography (VGIK). After returning to Armenia in 1981, Vardanyan was immediately given a position at the Hayfilm studios, where he shot a number of popular films, such as Snowdrop and Edelweiss (1981), The Slap in the Face (1982) as well as numerous documentary films and chronicles. From the beginning of the so-called ‘Artsakh Movement’, Vardanyan was actively engaged in political and war developments as a documentary cameraman and in 1992, he was asked to supervise the department of visual documentation at the broadcast unit of Armenia’s Ministry of Defence.(1)
Along with his cinematographic practice, Vardanyan also had a parallel career in art and documentary photography. It is possible to find many of his works on the pages of Garun (Spring) literary-artistic journal. The echo of Vardanyan’s cinematic thinking is palpable in these images. Rather than being significant moments ‘caught’ by the camera, his photographs are marked by a fleeting and impressionistic gaze, as well as the tendency to add metaphorical weight to what are otherwise insignificant objects and scenes. In the domain of ‘art’ photography, Vardanyan always preferred the black and white format, through which he has consistently explored the medium’s ability to generate a feeling of space and poetic atmosphere. These experiments often revolve around subjects drawn from everyday life, the natural landscape and pastoral themes, which the photographer essentially turned to as a motivation for his formal investigations.
From the beginning of the 1990s, Vardanyan put all his energies towards straightforward, documentary work, using his video camera to record the current of political and social developments in Armenia. He is based today at the State Institute of Theatre and Cinematography (from 2011) and at the faculty of culture State Pedagogical Institute, where he teaches camera operating, cinematography and fine art photography.
1) Biographical details are taken from the photographer’s autobiography, see: ‘Shavarsh Vardanyan’ [in Armenian], http://avproduction.am/?ln=am&page=person&id=2843 [accessed 05.06.2019]
USSR, Armenia, ArmSSR