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Mаry Mamyan

Buy Paradjanov's House in Kiev and Turn It Into a Museum, Suggests Ukrainian Cinematographer

Ukrainian cinematographer and photographer Yuri Garmash, who photographed famous Soviet Armenian filmmaker Sergei Paradjanov for many years, believes that the apartment in which Paradjanov lived in Kiev should be acquired and turned into a museum.  

Garmash is currently in Yerevan, exhibiting his photos of Paradjanov as part of the 11th Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival. Both the festival and Garmash's exhibit — called "Paradjanov: The Touch" — are dedicated to the Soviet filmmaker's 90th birthday.  

Garmash met Paradjanov in 1969, when he was a student. The Ukrainian cinematographer had moved to Kiev with his wife but didn't have a place to live. Though they had just met, Paradjanov hosted them in his house. Garmash recalls how Paradjanov would often go to the antique market and then create such works of art out of seemingly useless things.  

"I admired, admire and will admire my entire life his mastery: the colors, resilience, and beauty he produced are indescribable," he says.  

"They often ask me, wasn't it hard to photograph [Sergei] Paradjanov? But it was very easy because he himself creates frames. He's a film director, after all, right?" says Garmash.  

"Remaining behind the shot is 99.9% of all that which ties me to Paradjanov" 

Garmash photographed Paradjanov for the first time in 1971. Photographing Paradjanov became a regular occurrence, resulting in a large archive of photos of the Soviet filmmaker. Later, these photos became material for an exhibit, which was completed with photos by other photographers, on display in Ukraine for two years. Samples from this exhibit are those now on display in Yerevan. The opening ceremony of Garmash's photo exhibit took place within the scope of the Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival at the Moscow Cinema in Yerevan on July 13. Garmash walked around the hall, presenting his favorite photos and telling the story behind them.  

A majority of the photos are accompanied by words Paradjanov wrote or addressed to him. Speaking to Hetq, Garmash points to one of the photos, in which Paradjanov is seen through a window. The photographer recalls that he wanted to take the photograph secretly, but at that moment, Paradjanov, who had already spotted him, looks at the camera. As Garmash says, he saw everything.  

Asked what remains behind this image, Garmash says, "Remaining behind the shot is 99.9% of all that which ties me to Paradjanov. I understand the films well — how they were made, the art, how they were filmed, what's the coloring, the composition, and so on, but when I look at his work, especially the collages, I can't imagine how this man was able to create all this with such an imagination." 

How Paradjanov Greeted Yvonne de Gaulle 

Garmash recalls another incident with Paradjanov: how he greeted the wife of French President Charles de Gaulle, Yvonne de Gaulle, when she was in Ukraine and decided to visit the film director. Paradjanov turned off the lights to the entrance of his building and cut off the electrical circuit servicing the elevator. He took 100 large candles designed for wedding ceremonies, and lit and arranged them from the first to the seventh floor, where his apartment was located, decorating the entire path lit by candles with rose petals.  

Now the apartment in which Paradjanov lived is occupied by a family unrelated to the Soviet filmmaker. After Paradjanov was arrested, the apartment was sold. Though in recent years, several artists in Ukraine often raise the issue of establishing a Sergei Paradjanov house-museum in Kiev, the idea has yet to come to fruition. One of the advocates of this idea is Garmash, who proposes buying the apartment where Paradjanov lived and establish his house-museum there. However, as a result of recent events in Ukraine, this issue has been put on the back burner.  

Though Paradjanov is no longer with us, Garmash says, if he suddenly had the chance to ask him anything, he would say nothing. "I would simply listen to and watch him," he says.

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