Database of Armenian photo-media practioners

(Gurgen) Guros (Paronyan-Hovsepyan)

1905 - 1981

1920 - 1940s

Gourgen Paronyan comes from the Melik-Ohanyan dynasty – a family of noblemen from Goris. Though he dedicated most of his creative life to painting (in which he was self-tougt), Guros entered the sphere of art as a photographer at age of twenty-two.(1) Focusing on ethnographic, historiographic and landscape themes, Guros diligently recorded the lifestyle, customs and the historical-architectural environment of his native city and the Syunik region. Thanks to his photographs, we are today able to form a clear visual idea about the daily life and rich traditions of Syunik region’s inhabitants just prior to the onset of industrialised modernity. Guros’ panoramic views of rural communities are also extremely valuable from an archival perspective as they provide indispensable visual documentation about sites whose original architectural make-up was fundamentally transformed or destroyed between 1930s and 1950s. These photographs circulated as research material shortly after being taken and have been published by various scholars such as the ethnographer Yervand Lalayants.

Paronyan's photographs are not delimited by the dry, purely factual and, hence, orientalist schemes of ethnographic photography. By presenting the locals not as remains of the disappearing culture but as individuals who bear their ancient traditions with pride and dignity, the photographs display the direct, emphatic connection between the photographer and his subjects. Nevertheless, Guros' photographs were are used for showing Armenia’ pre-revolutionary society as backward and in drastic need for change. Thus, the emergence of mass-scale industrial labour economy in Syunik and the subsequent transformation of the ‘old life’ under socialist order was also dully and quite impartially recorded by the photographer.

Guros also served the local population by making portraits of residents from Goris and nearby villages in the studio he opened in 1928. It operated in Goris until 1932, after which Guros moved to Yerevan and worked as a photographer for the Scientific Research Institute. His great love for painting motivated him to abandon photography in 1938 and fully dedicate himself to the fine arts. Despite being self-taught, the artist achieved considerable success in this field, becoming a member of the Artists Union of Armenia (in 1939) and in 1965, an Honoured Artist of the Armenian SSR. The nature and culture of Syunik continued to dominate his painting as a subject. From an historical perspective, it is evident that the photographer who was endowed with a sharp instinct for incisive detail and ability to impart a hauntingly realistic sense of a place, proved to be a weaker and more conservative in this regard as a painter. Besides its undeniable documentary value, Guros' photographic legacy can, therefore, be considered as one of the more original oeuvres in the early stages of documentary photography’s emergence in Soviet Armenia.

1) Ye. Hovhannisyan, Guros, exhibition catalogue, Artists Union of Armenia, Yerevan, 1968




USSR, Armenia, ArmSSR


Goris, Yerevan


studio, documentary


analogue photography


Harutyunyan, Vahan. Guros [in Armenian], exhibition catalogue, Artists Union of Armenia, Yerevan, 1980

Hovhannisyan, Ye. Guros [in Armenian], exhibition catalogue, Artists Union of Armenia, Yerevan, 1968


1968։ Solo exhibition (painting), House of Artists, Yerevan

1980։ Solo exhibition (painting), House of ArtistsYerevan

2018: Guros: painting and photography. Solo exhibition, Zvartnots historical museum-reserve


History Museum of Armenia, Yerevan; Museum of Local History, Sisian; National Gallery of Armenia, Yerevan

Other images by this author