Liana Grigoryan

Vogue’s Armenian Touch: Photographer Liana Grigoryan Creates Her Own Pages in the Famous Magazine

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By Ani Duzdabanyan-Manoukian

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

LOS ANGELES – Imagine the color blue on blue and on another blue. Does it sound tricky? Not for Liana Grigoryan. By using a palette of bold colors and unexpected backdrops she is able to create a simple art piece or, as she likes to call it, a fine art photograph, to land straight in the pages of Vogue or Cosmopolitan magazines. But the path she chose was never easy. And there she is in my virtual interview room, simple and down to earth, looking just like an old friend from my neighborhood, wearing a T-shirt with Minnie Mouse and a big smile on her face. She is from Yerevan, a fellow alumna of the Caucasus Institute and the last class of Documental Photography Studies led by famous photographer Ruben Mangasaryan.

As an immigrant, the “American dream” wasn’t really a dream for Liana. All her relatives lived in Europe. She never even thought about moving to the US until one day her friends convinced her to apply with them for the Diversity Immigrant Visa program commonly known as a “green card lottery.” Liana was the only one among her friends who won.

Even though she arrived in the US on her birthday in 2013, she wasn’t greeted with celebrations. Instead many challenges awaited her before she could see the fireworks years later. Being an experienced video editor helped her find a job at a local Armenian TV station. Then she started to work as a photographer in weddings.

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“I was all alone, new in a big city. Everyone tried to convince me that a photographer can only earn money by shooting special events like weddings,” says Liana, remembering the beginning of her career with a smile. The photos turned out great with very specific details that only a professional documental photographer could add.

But that wasn’t what Liana wanted. “I didn’t touch the camera for three years. It was hard. I needed to work, improve my English and find an apartment to live in,” she says, sharing her memories for a sure plan for success. Liana started to attend Glendale Community College and, not unexpectedly, a photography class was on her schedule.

“I had the camera again in my hands. I needed a marketing plan: to be able to make money and invest it later in my dream.” She started to work like a regular photographer by doing photo sessions for children and family, including maternity photos.

Liana’s next move was in fine art photography, through which she met with different professional models for her projects. “My first model was Emily. She is such a sweetheart. I am still working with her,” relates Liana with significant gratitude in her tone. Emily’s mother was a big support. She was the one who introduced Liana to different professional models.

A photograph by Liana Grigoryan

Work within that setting gave her the opportunity to apply to special projects with the big players in the fashion world. Liana’s seven photos were immediately accepted to Vogue’s “Inner Peace” project. In her photos, pink flowers represented the hope for the inner peace that everyone should achieve one day.

Liana was in the right place: she started to work with the agencies like Elite LA, one of the huge player in the fashion world with locations in Paris, New York and Milan. Liana started to build her portfolio. With make-up artists, hair dressers and stylists, she had a whole team working with her. From Vogue to Cosmopolitan, her work ranged from special projects to commercials.

“It’s a very difficult and long process. You can apply 100 times but your work can only be accepted once. It’s important to make the decision for submission before starting it. There are set standards for each publication. You shoot the idea in the way that is acceptable to the magazine. For example, Vogue likes things to be as natural as possible; I might not even have a makeup artist on the set. For this magazine, the most important part is the idea,” shares Liana.

Despite the challenges, she loves working for the fashion magazines, “It’s team work. It doesn’t matter how talented you are. You can never achieve big things when you work alone.”

Covid-19 had its impact on the world of photography as on everything else. Liana’s next big project, “Armenian Women in the US,” is not complete yet. It became one of the most important projects for her. It all started in the college classroom where the Pulitzer-Prize-winning photographer of the LA Times, Clarence Williams, assigned Liana to take photos of Armenian women for a special project.

“I presented two different ideas to him, but he rejected both of them. All the other students started to work on their projects but me. Mr. Williams wanted me to work on something special. He didn’t even know what he was dragging me into,” Liana laughs. And she went to Armenian kitchens, businesses, judge’s offices and so many other places for this unprecedented photography project to present Armenian women in every domain. “It’s not going to be only in California, but in many states. That’s why it’s called Armenian women in the US,” explains Liana about her post-pandemic plans.

Via the computer screen I can’t see her apartment but by exploring her character, a question is tugging at my mind: “Is everything in your apartment set like a picture?”

She thinks for a second without glancing back at the room, like she knows exactly where everything is. “Yes, that is so true! My coffee table is my favorite spot in my apartment. My coffee could get cold but I need to arrange the table the way I want it to be. Or for example, if I work for several hours on the computer, I might just move a flower next to it so I can have the right setting.” She even spotted the movement of the sunlight in her room. Around four o’clock in the afternoon, the shadows are very much visible and she can see a picture slowly forming in the room. “I will just bring a vase and put it in the shade of the curtain, and that will make my picture complete.”

Liana is a huge self-critic. She never stops learning and evolving. “That’s what makes me going,” she laughs whole-heartedly.

Liana Grigoryan

And then she is a Libra. The balance comes after an inner fight for self-fulfillment, followed by self-confidence concerning a dream that still needs to be attained.

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