/ 2017 / Press /

Inhabitants of the Empty

  • Prize
    Gold in Press/Feature Story, 2nd Place winner in Press
  • Photographer
    Yulia Grigoryants, Armenia

In 1988, a 7.0 Richter-scale earthquake
struck northern Armenia killing at least
25,000 people. Thousands more were
maimed and hundreds of thousands left
homeless. Gyumri, Armenia’s second
largest city bore much of the damage.
Large-scale war by the early 1990s, the
collapse of the Soviet Union, an energy
shortage, and blockade that left
landlocked Armenia with just two open
borders contributed to exacerbating the
region's already prevalent social and
economic problems.

Today, Gyumri has the country’s highest
poverty rate at 47.7%. The city has lost
nearly half of its population. Few
thousand families are still living in
makeshift shelters. Many of them are
not eligible for new housing, since they
are not considered as direct victims of
the earthquake.

During the Soviet era, these huge twin
dormitory buildings on the outskirts of
Gyumri accommodated around 60
families each. Today there are just four
families living here, among decaying
walls and corridors.


Yulia Grigoryants is an independent photographer and producer from Armenia currently based in France. Her extensive professional background in documentary film production helped develop her storytelling abilities while covering social, cultural, and human rights issues around the world, including conflict zones.

Born in 1984 in Baku, Azerbaijan, she fled the country in 1988 with her family because of the violence against the Armenian population, which was followed with a large-scale war in the early 1990’s. She grew up during a time of important political and social changes for Armenia and the region, with the transition from the Soviet system to independence, devastating earthquake, five years of war, and years of social-economic hardship, which still continues to this day.

Her personal photo projects document life in border regions, ethnic minorities and social issues in the country. Yulia’s works have been exhibited and published internationally, including in Washington Post, L’oeil de la Photographie, Life Force Magazine, Life Framer, Fotodoc, etc. In 2015 Yulia’s photographs were twice exhibited at UN House in Yerevan, Armenia as a personal exhibition and as a part of group exhibition. In the same year, she held a personal exhibition in the border region of Armenia exhibiting her story from the conflict zone. In 2016 Yulia won The Best New Talent award at International Photography Awards and 1st Category Winner (IPA-CIS) in the Editorial photography category. She was nominated for the annual Lucie Awards (2016) and shortlisted for Sony World Photography award for 2016. Yulia’s work was also exhibited China, Philippines, Armenia, Russia and in May 2017 she had her first personal exhibition in France at the Council of Europe’s house in Strasbourg.

Awards Nominated for Lucie awards(2016) Shortlisted for Sony World Photography Award