M emory is a funny thing. Looking back on the “few scattered memories” of the time he spent in Kazakhstan as a child, renowned classical guitarist Slava Grigoryan says that everything he recalls from then is in black and white, while all his memories after that are coloured. “That’s very strange. It has to do with the history of photographs that we’ve got; it must be a big part of it,” he muses.

Grigoryan was about four when his parents decided to leave Kazakhstan, then a republic of the Soviet Union, and head for a freer life in Australia, arriving in 1981. 

“My mum’s dad died just before we left, and I remember that pretty clearly so I would have been about three and a half or four years old. On the way to Australia, we were in Italy for about six months, it was part of a migration path that Soviet migrants took. We were waiting for our Australian visas, and Italy, I remember very well – and all of those memories are in bright colour, and the memories before that are in black and white,” he says.

There’s been nothing monochrome about...