A guide to the New East

Salut Armen: celebrating the radical sincerity of Kiev’s visionary photographer

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It’s impossible to talk about Ukraine’s vibrant capital without referring to its unique youth scene — its rebellious spirit and cutting-edge vision. It’s even more difficult to express just how much this scene is a product of true DIY community spirit. Photographers are often thought of as outsiders at best and voyeurs at worst. Then there are visionaries like Armen Parsadanov — who sadly passed away in February this year — that unite people with their work. This month, Kiev’s Bursa Gallery celebrates his legacy with a retrospective put together by Parsadanov’s friends and collaborators, made up of archive, photo and video materials, films, recordings and personal fragments. Parsadanov was in his early 30s when he moved from Crimea to Kiev to pursue his dream of becoming a photographer. It wasn’t long before he was producing fashion editorials for the likes of Vogue and i-D, and collaborating with other artists and musicians. His editorials stood out for their atmospheric and undone aesthetic, but his vision truly came to life in the more intimate shots of his extended Kiev family. The portraits he took of his friends (artist Masha Reva, designer Anton Belinskiy, amd make-up artist Yulya Zalesskaya among others) are full of empathy, sincerity and love. I was lucky to have worked with Parsadanov on the exhibition Post-Soviet Visions: image and identity in the new Eastern Europe, which featured his series Nutshell. “It was important for me to shoot honest portraits, real photography which is all about the essence,” he wrote to me in one of our last exchanges. “I think I’m coming close to this.”

Salut Armen is on show at Bursa Gallery until 22 November, with plans to fundraise for a book of the artist’s work. You can find more information here.

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