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In Memoriam : Roger Kasparian (1938-2024)


Photographer Roger Kasparian died on February 15. His daughter Lydia sent us these images and text.

Roger Kasparian is known for having photographed with talent the greatest singers and actors of the 60s.

Roger Kasparian called himself a photographer from birth. He is part of a generation who learned the trade on the job at a very young age.

Roger is the son of Varastade Kasparian, a survivor of the Armenian genocide of 1915. Varastade arrived in France in 1924 with 100 other Armenian orphans taken in and raised in a castle in Loir et Cher thanks to funding from the Karagheusian, a family of Armenians from New York. At 16, Varastade chose the profession of photographer and, after several months of apprenticeship with a photographer near Blois, he “moved up” to Paris to work as an operator for the famous Harcourt studio. He married Hasmig, also a genocide survivor. Father of two children, he decided to become self-employed opening his first Photo Studio in a garage at the back of a courtyard in Montreuil-sous-Bois. This is the beginning of the Kasparian photographers family adventure. Roger, still a child, began to learn the trade by helping his father.

In 1947, Varastade had a pavilion built, the ground floor of which was dedicated to the shop and photo laboratory of the future Studio Boissière. The Kasparian family would live on the first floor. Family life was thus closely linked to professional activity. Roger, his brother Jacques, and much later their children also learned the profession of photographer as well as acquiring the taste for a job well done, naturally, gradually, the old-fashioned way. In this family photo studio, it was from a very young age that the children of the family circulated, inhaling the scent of the developer baths, slipping into the skirts of an adult to give change, picking up the remains of flowers after wedding photos in the large photo studio , penetrating the mysterious darkness of the laboratory… and little by little, ensuring a last minute replacement behind the sacred lens. It is not for nothing that all the Kasparians who lived in this pavilion-boutique-lab called themselves more or less photographers.

In the 1960s, returning from his military service in Algeria, Roger met by chance a journalist of Armenian origin who took him into the Parisian nights in search of future singing stars. Roger, then aged 22, was looking for his independence. He set foot in the world of show business where he began to photograph both the big stars of the time: Edith Piaf, Joséphine Baker… but also the young rising stars of the 60’s like Johnny Hallyday, Sylvie Vartan, Françoise Hardy, Sheila, Claude François, Jacques Dutronc, and Gainsbourg, Aznavour, Brel… They were all young (and beautiful), the photographer Kasparian was only a few years older than these budding artists and the proximity and complicity were therefore immediate . Thus Kasparian shared the adventures of the beginnings of great world-famous French artists but also American and Anglo-Saxon ones such as the Beatles, the Who, the Rolling Stones, Armstrong, Nina Simone, Ray Charles… It was for him the opportunity to create exceptional shots for their spontaneity but also for the quality of shooting of the already accomplished photographer.

Roger also made some very good reportages during the Cannes Film Festival in the early 1960s and, always very discreet but present everywhere, he photographed the big names in cinema: Delon, Belmondo, Sofia Loren, Catherine Deneuve, Romy Schneider, etc. just to name a few.

What distinguished Roger was his independence and simplicity. He had always been a freelancer, refusing offers to work with a particular newspaper or for a particular singer. He was a very free, calm person, with a keen sense of humor. But he also had an extraordinary tenacity, and was a hard worker. Kasparian was able to skillfully capture the life and youth of the mythical period of the 60s. But also, we can find in the details of the background of his images the testimony of an entire era. Finally, each photo illustrates a story that Roger took real pleasure in telling.

At the beginning of the 1960s, Roger met his wife Dany on a film set, they worked together, he taking always unique shots, and Dany writing the texts to sell them in the newspaper editorial offices of the time.

With the arrival of their first daughter Lydia, a family life begins that was difficult to reconcile with the frantic pace of Parisian nights. And then, the beautiful carefreeness of the 60s disappeared. Everything became more complicated. There was no longer any question, as Roger had done many times, of being able to easily enter the airports to wait for the singers arriving for a concert in France and thus take exceptional shots of the Rolling Stones sitting all alone on a bench, or Ray Charles arriving with his family, or the Beatles on the tarmac… in the same way Roger was able to photograph Gainsbourg, Sylvie Vartan, Johnny Hallyday, Aznavour etc… in their privacy, at home, with complete simplicity. Sometimes, Roger even took these artists for a photo shoot in Montreuil in the family studio!

In the 1970s, Kasparian changed course. Having obtained approval in architecture, he embarked on this new activity and put his profession as a photographer on hold.

It was only starting 2013 that his unpublished photos, priceless archives and buried treasure, were taken out of the boxes by a collector to be the subject of numerous exhibitions (Paris, London, Kuala Lumpur, Montevideo, Valencia, Lille, Arles, Théoule-sur-Mer etc…), books and films. So Roger, between two exhibitions, returned to reporting, devoting his time to photographing all events linked to the Armenian community in France but also in several countries around the world (Armenia, Great Britain, Uruguay, Malaysia, Singapore, Brazil, India,…). Because Roger, who loved freedom, was above all a man of the field.

In 2023 and 2024, at the age of 85, Roger Kasparian exhibited his photos with joy and to the delight of visitors with whom he loved to share his memories, in the Town Hall of the 9th arrondissement of Paris, the Town Hall of the 5th, in the headquarters of the Hauts de France region, in Théoule-sur-Mer…

And it was on February 15th, 2024, during a last reportage in Georgia, with his grandson Norvan and his daughter Lydia, that Roger Kasparian passed away in his sleep, a camera, his inseparable companion, at his side.

Lydia Kasparian

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