Yerevan, Armenia on a Zenit 122 and Zorki 4K By Robert L Weitzner

Nov 25, 2019
6 min read

When I first had the chance to visit Armenia and it’s capital Yerevan, I had no idea the impact this city, one of the oldest in the world, would have on the rest of my life.

My plan was to stay only three days, absorbing as much history as I could; after all, Yerevan, the capital of Armenia is such an ancient city filled with rich history. But it is the people that really make the city and country special. The Armenians are a relatively small race but make up most of the strongest people I have ever met. A holy people, constantly praying and thanking God for what they have and praying for peace, and with such an emphasis on preserving their culture and history – Armenia was the first nation in the world to adopt Christianity as the official state religion, in the year 301.

It’s no wonder that most of the architecture in Armenia consist of churches and monasteries dating back to the early 4th Century, along with museums filled with manuscripts and writings dating back over 3,000 years. One of my favourite places in the city is a juxtaposition of old and new – a 13th Century Armenian church, Armenian Katoghike Church, surrounded by the brand new Saint Anna Church, built in 2015. The architecture is strikingly similar, but you can tell that one has seen many more life events and ages than the other.

The biggest surprise Yerevan had for me, however, would be meeting my wife Astghik. On my first day in Armenia we met, and I took her on a date on my third day, when I told her I wanted to marry her. We had gone on a date to the National Gallery of the Republic of Armenia, an excellent display of art and artifacts. It is situated in the center of Republic Square, which is the heart of Yerevan, and was founded in 1924 by the city’s famous architect, Alexander Tamanyan. The architecture is incredible, and most buildings are government buildings but make for great photos. At the centre of the square is the Dancing Fountains – which from spring to autumn creates an incredible show of fountains choreographed to international music, attracting tourists from all over the world. To me it is like the dancing of a million diamonds.

I suppose my own story also plays a large role in the magic that Yerevan brings to me. I am born in America but lived in Armenia for over a year after marrying my wife, and we still visit Armenia regularly.

There is certainly an abundance of perfectly preserved cameras from the former Soviet Union, many of which can be seen at the weekend open-air market of Vernissage. The two cameras I have used the most here in Armenia, however is the Zorki 4K my wife bought me for my birthday a few years ago and a Zenit 122 SLR. The Zenit 122 was bought for my wife by her parents shortly after she was born, while her parents were on vacation in the early 1990’s. My wife gave it to me and I was the first to unbox and load the camera.

Unfortunately film and processing services are hard to find in Yerevan, and I brought much of my film and powdered black and white chemistry back with me after a quick trip back to the US. Much of the film I use during my trips to Armenia range from Kodak TMAX 100, Kentmere 400, and Fomapan 100, which are what was used to take all of the black and white photographs in this article.

There is, however, one place where I develop colour film in Armenia – it is a small photo printing shop slightly below street level, and it’s the only place in the city that develops C41 colour film – at least the only one that I trust. The owner’s name is Armen, and his shop is at 38 Abovyan Street. This is in the area of Circle Park– a beautiful green park that encircles the city from almost all directions. It is a beautiful place to walk through to escape the summer sun, which also offers incredible photo opportunities as the sunlight filters through tall poplar trees as well as lots of other foliage. Also scattered throughout the park are many sculptures dedicated to many famous Armenian writers, poets, musicians, and other notable historic figures.

Another of my favourite spots is the Yerevan Cascade. It is a free outdoor museum of modern and contemporary art and statues. At the top is a beautiful overlook of the city, the Yerevan Opera House as the crown jewel of the city.

On the outskirts of Yerevan is the Tsitsernakaberd, the memorial to the Armenian Genocide. Every year on April 24, hundreds of thousands of people make the symbolic march up the mountain that it sits on to remember the 1.5 million Armenians that were killed in the Armenian Genocide committed by Turkey in 1915. It is a solemn march and one that will leave a mark on your heart. In the center of the monument is the everlasting flame, and people lay flowers and wreaths around it so that we may never forget this dark part of history.

Less than an hour outside Yerevan is another city, Etchmiadzin. It is also a historic city at the foot of Biblical Mount Ararat. It is also known for its ancient Churches and Monasteries, most notably the Etchmiadzin Cathedral, or the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, the “Vatican” of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Built between the years 301 and 303, it is the home of the Catholicos of the Armenian Church and a pilgrimage site for Armenians and other Christians from all over the world.

One can also find other ancient Churches, such as the 7th Century St. Gayane Church, and the 7th Century St. Hripsime Church, both named after Saints of the Armenian Church.

I truly love this country (and not just because it is the place I met my wife) I think it is one of the best relatively undiscovered tourism destination in the world – especially for photographers

If you’re interested in seeing more unusual destinations shot on film, here are a few articles that you might find interesting: 

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