July 24, 2020 | Zoe McKay
I recently spoke with Christopher Yeghia Der Manuelian, a well-known photographer and Baywood resident living on Parrott Drive. He shared the fascinating story of his life, career, and his time in Baywood. He is now 89 years old and retired with his wife, Nora.
ZM: Hello, Christopher! Can you please share where you are from?
CYDM: I was born and raised in Armenia. I moved to the U.S. on February 22, 1965.
ZM: How long have you lived in Baywood?
CYDM: I have lived in Baywood at my house for 41 years. I was working for a family in Hillsborough, taking pictures of their buildings, and I became good friends with them. They told me to buy a house here to be close to my photo studio and work because I was living in Foster City at the time. I lived there for 15 years. I didn’t like living so far from work, I wanted a place where I could walk to and from my job, but I questioned if I could afford it. I searched for three years before I found the house in which I now live. Before this house, I had actually found another down the street and had put a deposit down. A few weeks later, this house went up for sale and I knew I had to live here. I gave up the other house and it was the best money I ever lost! “If I was to design a house as an engineer, this is what I would have built for me.”
ZM: What is your favorite part about living in Baywood?
CYDM: This place is heavenly and the people are wonderful. I feel like everyone knows everyone.
ZM: Tell me about your story with photography.
CYDM: I love photography. I would photograph anybody, ANYBODY! I would have taken pictures just to meet people and get to know them. I was not interested in the money at all.
I retired at 60. From then on, Nora [my wife] and I traveled the world and took pictures.
I worked completely alone during my entire photography career. I never wanted to work for someone else in a big firm. I always wanted to work for myself.
Photography brought me so many opportunities, like speaking in the Philippines, where people came from all over to listen to me lecture.
ZM: At what age did you start photography? CYDM: I feel like I started the day I was born. I still remember taking photographs with my father’s box camera.
ZM: Is there a memorable person you photographed?
CYDM: They are very controversial people, but I was hired to take the wedding pictures of Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos, the former dictator of the Phillippines. I also took the wedding photos of one of their daughters. Years later, in the U.S., I also took their family photos.
ZM: How do you capture certain personalities or stories in your photography?
CYDM: I photograph every expression to get the essence of who the person I am photographing is.
ZM: Do you have a favorite thing to photograph?
CYDM: I love wedding pictures, portraits, and the beautiful world starting from San Francisco to the very Far East.
ZM: How do you feel about the advances in digital technology and how everyone now has a camera right at their fingertips?
CYDM: I love it! I am very happy that everyone has access to and can enjoy photography.
ZM: Is there anywhere that people can go to see your work?
CYDM: There are many, many, many publications of my work, but I have more of my photos than anyone else. My house and basement are filled with thousands of my photographs.
ZM: Last question, Christopher. Why do you love photography so much?
CYDM: I was born with a love for photography. It makes me so happy. Money was never the most important thing; it had nothing to do with it. I just wanted to take pictures for anybody I could. Nothing satisfies me as much as photography does.
Photos from Christopher's home: