2019 is Gnuni Hayrapetyan’s fifth year as a TUMO student. Currently, he’s also a photography workshop assistant.
Born in Gyumri, he moved to Yerevan in the second grade. He remembers not being able to communicate with his classmates, at first, because there’s such a difference between the cities’ dialects. Eventually, he adjusted. “You can say that I speak two languages now,” said Gnuni, jokingly, in the Gyumri dialect. “I speak the Gyumri dialect with people from Gyumri and the Yerevan dialect with people from Yerevan.”
When Gnuni turned 12, he started attending TUMO at the encouragement of his friends. “I struggled in school and expected TUMO to be no different. But, I was completely wrong. Now, even my interests have changed,” he explained. “Since I enjoy math, I was sure that I’d excel at programming. I was shocked when the self-learning activities revealed my strengths to be graphic design, 3D modeling and photography. I’ve come to love them.”
At first, Gnuni didn’t realize how different professional and smartphone photography actually area from each other. “I love images. As strange as it sounds, I love images more than video,” he explained. “Video reveals everything, while photography allows you to interpret meaning and imagine what happened before and after a captured moment.”
Within the field, Gnuni is most interested in conceptual photography. The light bulb went off during Alt-July — TUMO’s 2019 learning lab extravaganza — when he participated in a photography lab documenting a mummy waking up to modern life in Yerevan. “I enjoy coming up with a concept, creating a photo and controlling the environment. It’s an extraordinary experience,” said Gnuni. “You get to depict an environment you’ve seen many times in a different light. You can ‘fix’ mistakes that you notice around you for the purpose of your photos.”
Gnuni sees photo opportunities everywhere. He doesn’t have his own camera and if he can’t manage to take a shot with his cell phone, he memorizes it with his eyes. “I’ve even started using my eyes like Adobe Illustrator — cropping the photo, making edits,” he said, matter of factly. “Who knows? Maybe, one day, technology will catch up with my imagination.”
In addition to loving conceptual photography, he’s also considering becoming a photojournalist. “I’d travel to hotposts,” said Gnuni. “I love extremes and it’s important to document conflict.”
Gnuni spends an average of five hours a day at TUMO — and they’re never idle. As a photography workshop assistant his responsibilities have grown. The questions that he receives from students push them both deeper into the field. “At TUMO, I assist workshop leaders and students,” he said. “It’s the best thing because I get to learn from both sides.”
Once, Gnuni was picking up his brother from kindergarten when he noticed a photo opportunity. A group of kids in red hats was playing together in one corner, and a sad child wearing a blue hat was sitting alone in another. Gnuni approached the child in blue, asking if he’d join the group for a photo. Of course, the child turned Gnuni down. “It didn’t work out, but just the thought of a shoot excited me,” chuckled Gnuni.