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Yerevan's Mirzoyan Library home to cutting edge photography: Smithsonian

Yerevan's Mirzoyan Library home to cutting edge photography: Smithsonian

PanARMENIAN.Net - Smithsonian Magazine has unveiled a fresh story about Mirzoyan Library in the Armenian capital city of Yerevan, home to the largest collection of photography books in the Caucasus region.

“It’s a Friday afternoon in Yerevan, and a few people are gathered on the second-story terrace outside a historic late 19th-century building—a growing novelty among the capital city’s new construction—sipping tea at vintage sewing tables and discussing photo composition. Just inside large black & white images (some with slight bursts of color) decorate the walls, while downstairs shelves covered in photography books line the room. When evening falls, the crowd swaps their teas for gin & tonics, and a local DJ starts spinning electronic tracks,” the article starts.

“But it’s (Mirzoyan Library - Ed.) more than a repository for printed works: the library is also an art gallery, workshop space, nightclub, cafe and salon for exchanging ideas. Since opening in August 2014, it’s become a beloved haunt among locals, not to mention travelers who’ve been lucky enough to discover it.”

Founder Karén Mirzoyan is an award-winning Armenian-based photojournalist and documentary photographer who’s spent years on the road working for publications such as Time, Harpers and Newsweek. It was while traveling on an assignment that the Georgia-born Armenian first thought about creating a permanent place to inspire would-be photographers in his home country.

When Mirzoyan first began researching Armenian photography around 2012, he could only really find two places to learn about it: The Lusadaran Armenian Photography Foundation, which preserves and promotes the works of Armenian photographers through a website and various exhibitions, and The American University in Cairo, Egypt, where there is a large Armenian community. But there wasn’t really a dedicated space in Armenia where anyone interested in photography could immerse themselves in the art form, pour over books for hours and learn about the practice in general. So Mirzoyan, who says he’s the furthest thing from a business man, decided to create one—beginning with about 100 books from his own collection.

Today Mirzoyan Library is home to more than 600 books and dozens of photography magazines, most of them donated by institutions and individuals, and its numbers continue to grow.

From the beginning, Mirzoyan knew he wanted the library to be place for the kinds of creative conversations that linger into all hours of the night, so he added music, cocktails and a space where anyone from traveling photographers to journalists on their way through Yerevan could come to talk, teach and display their works.

But at its heart, the space is still very much a library. “It’s books that made me want to become a photojournalist.” Mirzoyan says, “I want to give [a new generation] the chance to have a similar opportunity.”

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