Aspo Manukian: "I always wished for vacations to come as soon as possible for us to come to Dilijan"

About myself and Dilijan from childhood

My name is Aspo Manukian. I am a photographer, I was born in Dilijan and lived here until I was three years old. In the 90's my parents decided to move to Russia, where I spent all my conscious life.

However, every summer we came to Dilijan for vacations. I had a very active childhood: I used to play outside all day long. Already at the age of 3-4, I used to climb over the fence of our house on Kalinin Street and play in the yard with the older kids.

At first, we played only near the house. When we got older, we began to explore the area around us. I really liked the city park (hyperlink to the article). And I also really liked the aroma of thuja fruits that grew near the bridge. Now every walk I take is accompanied by a feeling of nostalgia.

I remember that I always wished for vacations to come as soon as possible for us to come to Dilijan. The contrast between that feeling of freedom in Armenia and the strict control of my parents in Moscow made each visit even more long-awaited. There was a feeling of absolute happiness and carefreeness here!

Moving to Dilijan after 30 years: first impressions

Until 2018, Dilijan was like a kind of freeze frame. There was a feeling like nothing had ever changed and everything had frozen: for years the same people were sitting in the same gazebos and playing backgammon. After 2019, I began to notice positive changes: the city began to develop actively, cafes and restaurants familiar to Muscovites appeared. Now there are places to visit. Many expats and those who relocated came here with their own activities, I feel super comfortable here.

Passion for photography, burnout and new breath

I got into photography when I was a student - my sister from Spain came to visit us, she had a digital compact camera. I was really drawn in. While my sister was staying with us, I never let the camera out of my hands. Seeing how passionate I was, my parents bought me my first SLR camera. I’m very grateful for their support!

I used to walk around with this camera all the time, taking pictures of my friends and student life. After a while, I started receiving orders. I used to photograph everything and, as it is typical for most creative people, by the time I graduated I was really burnt out. That was the point when I decided that photography would be only a hobby for me. This break lasted about 8 years.

After graduating I began to work in my specialty - as a fabric artist.Then I went on maternity leave. Having a child was a turning point for me. I reconsidered my views on life and my values. At that period of time I was taking pics of my daughter a lot and saw how fast she was growing up. That’s when I truly realized the importance of capturing the moment and the value of photography increased dramatically. I had a strong urge to return to commercial photography.

Now photography is a whole philosophy for me. I help people capture themselves and their family in the moment, so that in 20-30 years they can look back at these photos and remember the happy moments of their lives. I always give my heroes recommendations on clothes. Usually it is something very simple from natural fabrics and of neutral colors, without bright prints, so that in many years nothing will distract from the emotions of the people in the photo.

One of the main skills of a photographer is the ability to make a person feel at ease, because sometimes people are very shy at first. The photographer should be a bit of a psychologist to help them open up faster.

The right choice of photographer is also very important. I advise you to follow your favorite authors for a while. Make sure that not only his work, but also his thoughts and views resonate with you. Then it will be easy and comfortable because you will be on the same page. Sometimes I myself can refuse a shoot if it’s not my profile.

Dilijan as an inspiration for a photographer

Nature is my number one source of inspiration. The combination of the color palette in Dilijan that I see all year round definitely influences my creativity.

Top 3 locations for photography in Dilijan

I really like the expanse towards the village of Fioletovo. It's amazing there. It’s probably my favorite. The second one is the Alpine Castle Hotel. Thinking about the urban location, of course, it is the Tufenkian complex - a very textured street.

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