interview with Edmond Terakopian

Here with a series of interviews dedicated to the role that pens play in the daily lives of collectors, enthusiasts and users. The core of the interviews is how and to what extent pens have improved or even changed our lives.

scarica la versione italiana

The interviews are conducted by Letizia Iacopini.

Edmond Terakopian - Instagram profile fountainpenscribbles
A great photographer in love with pens.
With his thirty five years of experience as a photojournalist, Edmond Terakopian today represents a resource of great value for manufacturing companies that rely on his genius and experience to get creative photos of their pens.

Edmond boasts an excellence CV: In 2006 he received the title of Photographer of the Year at the British Press Awards, as well as receiving a third place award in the prestigious World Press Photo competition, where his photograph was chosen out of over 88,000 entries world wide.

The Daily Mirror newspaper named him as the author of one of the world’s most iconic photographs, referring to his photograph from the July 7th terrorist bombings in London.
Edmond was also invited to serve as the British Prime Minister's official photographer, as a member of a three photographer team, working directly for the British Prime Minister Tony Blair's office, at 10 Downing Street.

It is therefore no coincidence that when faced with Edmond's photographs of pens, we remain stupefied by the beauty and evocative power of the images he offers us.

When did you first come into contact with fountain pens?
In middle school they made us use fountain pens and I had cheap pens, like Parker or Sheaffer, which for me were simple writing instruments.
However, even at that time, I realized that some nibs were more pleasant than others and allowed me to write better.

The real ‘love at first sight’ came when I was in high school, in the 1980s.
Among the various subjects, I also studied Graphic Design. One afternoon I visited a nearby stationery shop to get an Isograph. I saw a Rotring 600 fountain pen in the shop window. It immediately grabbed me as I had never seen such an amazing designed pen! It fascinated me greatly; I bought it with my savings. I found it a short time ago in a drawer in my mother's house and it is still with me, I am deeply fond of it, as it is a pen with my own personal history attached to it.

The Rotring was followed by a Montblanc 145 which I received as a gift around 2000 from a former girlfriend, which for me was the ‘perfect pen’ and accompanied me for many years. I used it for everything: from taking simple notes, to writing down my thoughts, assignment details, ideas, time sheets and so on. One single quality pen which had served me for around 20 years, until at the beginning of the Covid 19 lockdown, I discovered the world of fountain pens and the hobbyist and collector side; and so other pens arrived, from various renowned brands.

Today I have around 130/140 pens, many more than I really need!

When did you start photographing pens and why?
It all started during the lockdown.
Professionally, as a photojournalist, I was at a standstill since the government had banned the press from reporting the realities of Covid 19. We were not allowed to photograph or film the frontlines, in hospitals, ambulances and so on. We were censored and the British public could not get real access to the news (unlike in places like Italy and the USA).

For me this situation was very frustrating as a journalist and I also lacked a channel for my creativity.

One day I was innocently surfing the web for a replacement for a brass pencil which I had lost.
I visited many pen sites, discovering a world I was unaware of. I was amazed by the quantity of various materials and varied designs in the universe of the pen.
At the same time, however, I also realized that the photography of these beautiful creations was often of poor quality and with very little communicative power.

Pens are precious objects, which tell a story rich in experience and technical knowledge; they are the result of very specific design choices and can express a significant and engaging aesthetic sense.
I thought that I could approach the photography of pens using the same criterion that I refer to when I photograph portraits of people, which is the search for the essence, the expression that condenses the meaning of the subject.
I did not want to simply take pictures of pens, I meant to define portraits, to capture the substance and expressive capacity of each pen.
It was an extremely stimulating challenge that immediately set my creativity in motion.

When I started posting my pen photos on social media, it was wonderful getting so many people contacting. Some people told me that they had bought a pen after seeing my photographs, as the manufacturer’s own hadn’t emotionally moved them. As time went on, I was contacted by some companies, makers and stores, who were very kind with their compliments. One well known shop in Italy even went as far as suggesting I was the best fountain pen photographer in the world! As more time passed and my portfolio of work got seen on a wider scale, several manufactures, distributers and stores have asked me to work with them and we’re now collaborating on several exciting projects!

Which was the first Leonardo pens you took pictures of?
The first Leonardo pen I photographed was a Leonardo Momento Magico Tropical Limited Edition, from Stilo e Stile. It absolutely blew my mind when I saw it.

Another which completely inspired was the gorgeous Leonardo Momento Zero Grande Primary Manipulation Bohemian Twilight Stilografica fountain pen, with Jonathan Brooks' resin.

I’ve been fortunate that my fountain pen photographs have been successful in five different photographic competitions internationally, with ten photographs being awarded various accolades. My aim from the beginning of this journey was to take fountain pens into a wider audience, using my photography and these competitions are a great way to achieve this.

What are the most difficult pens to photograph?
The pen itself is a complex object to photograph due to the way it fills space and reflects light. Its basically a reflective cylinder, with a reflective nib, all in different planes.
The relationship with light is fundamental in the search for the "perfect portrait".
The photos must make the pen attractive, convey a structured evocative capability; each shot requires a lot of prep work. It’s the reason why I often write in-depth notes while preparing shots.

For me it is crucial to understand and feel the pen I am photographing: every time I face a challenge of the mood I need to create, what’s the lighting design going to be for the various aspects of the shoot, what’s the set going to be? Everything comes together to create an aesthetic that communicates the feel I want to communicate with my imagery. Crucially, it’s important to convey the feeling from the designer as well and thus captivate the viewer.

Urushi lacquer pens are certainly among the most difficult pens to make "portraits" of. The very nature of lacquer reacts to light in a complex way and many pens have details and decorations that create stratified surfaces of varying thickness that react to light differently.
These pens are a real challenge for me and being able to obtain the result I am looking for is a great satisfaction.

What role do pens play in your daily life, beyond the professional aspect?
I use the fountain pen for any writing need, from taking notes to writing down my thoughts.
Writing down my thoughts is a sort of meditation practice for me. It's like giving shape to the philosophy of my life and I need to do it with the fountain pen, which also offers me an aesthetic that satisfies me.
I have at least 10 inked pens in my living room and three in my office. I must always have them available whenever I need or desire to write. My every day carry consists of four pocket fountain pens.

I occasionally write articles for photography magazines and when the deadline isn’t very tight, I prefer to write with a fountain pen and later type it up on my Mac.

What have you done thanks to or because of pens that you had never done before?
Without a doubt, attending pen shows!
Getting out of the social media sphere and venturing into a pen show to physically meet the people I had only interacted with virtually was a great step.

A pen show is an immense showcase where you can discover things that aren't on social media, or finally see them for real, feel the weight and the material, try out inks, nibs, paper, and most importantly, talk to people...
The pen community brings together people of all kinds and types, some are beautiful, interesting and stimulating, whilst as in every aspect of life, there a small handful of undesirables.
However, the balance is always positive, as the community has such lovely, wonderful, thoughtful and passionate people.

For those starting out with fountain pens, in my opinion, pens should fill us with joy, without any thought to how much they cost, how precious or rare they are. Don’t be swayed by pretentious people online. They shouldn’t serve as status symbols; we should always approach them in this simple way of bringing joy, as a search for beauty and the pleasure we can derive from them.

April 05, 2024 — Pepe Nero