After learning of a barbershop that has been open for almost eight decades, photographer Hrant Khachatryan became obsessed with idea of visiting and documenting its unique story. After hitting a creative wall with his other projects, Hrant finally traveled to the city of Gyumri to discover the true heart of this place.
The Lux Barbershop in the Armenian city of Gyumri opened its doors in 1941 and has been providing haircuts and shaves to the community ever since – even persevering for the duration of World War II. “The atmosphere here smacks you in the face from the moment you enter the premises,” says photographer Hrant Khachatryan. “There are Soviet mechanical hair clippers, lighting, washbasins, people in white smocks, red chairs with their torn and shabby upholstery. The linoleum is threadbare from so many feet shuffling around, and you can see the concrete underneath.”
The owners have revamped the barbershop’s interior only once in its 76 years, but their clients aren’t seeking glossy counters or high-tech tools. “Many people come here every day, just to sit around, talk a bit, and share the news. They play backgammon or chess, they work on crossword puzzles, and kid each other. Their spirit belongs to this barbershop,” says Hrant.
Countless Armenian actors, poets, and scholars have patronized the barbershop, having their hair trimmed or cheeks shaved by a Lux barber. Workstations in this barbershop are hereditary, furthering the familial feel of the place. Ovik Grigoryan, for instance, worked as a barber here for almost 50 years, and now his sons have taken up the profession. These days the staff of 11 only serves about 50 customers a day and is struggling to attract the younger generation – most Lux customers are elderly, those who have seen the barbershop through good and bad years.
When the barbershop’s early 20th-century building withstood the 1988 Spitak earthquake, the Lux community didn’t escape unscathed – the wife of barbershop director David Galustyan died in the devastating event. After the earthquake, many people left Gyumri; nevertheless, the barbershop remains an important fixture for city residents. “In Gyumri, I realized that people are the heart of this place,” says Hrant. “They never lose their spirit or the trademark Leninakan sense of humor. The people of Gyumri have suffered greatly, yet every morning at eight o’clock sharp, the Lux opens its doors to them.”