In five years in pho­tog­ra­phy, Arty­om Aru­tyunov has gone from shoot­ing land­scapes to abstract archi­tec­tur­al pho­tog­ra­phy, and his VKon­tak­te pub­lic has grown to 100,000 peo­ple.

We talked with Arty­om and found out how he pre­pares for film­ing, what he pays atten­tion to when pro­cess­ing, why he doesn’t like ultra-wide-angle lens­es, and why he con­sid­ers it impor­tant not to look at the work of oth­er col­leagues.

Pho­to: Artem Aru­tyunov / vk.com/cons_ph / vk.com/luxnocturnal

About the creative path and how to find your style

How did you get into archi­tec­tur­al pho­tog­ra­phy?

Pret­ty fun­ny. I start­ed with nature — I was attract­ed by the way it looks in the sun­set light, what mag­i­cal scenes can be obtained if you just lean down. But then I real­ized that it was banal and easy. And I decid­ed to retrain myself. The choice fell on archi­tec­tur­al pho­tog­ra­phy, because at that moment I did not under­stand how to shoot a task beau­ti­ful­ly in the con­text of mak­ing it look dif­fer­ent from what it real­ly is. That is, how to add some­thing from your­self, because an archi­tec­tur­al work is a fin­ished prod­uct. I came to this skill only after five or six years of my cre­ative path.

Pho­to: Artem Aru­tyunov / vk.com/cons_ph / vk.com/luxnocturnal

— Do you remem­ber when you first pho­tographed what became the hall­mark of your style?

Then I took a pic­ture of a stat­ue in Kolomen­skoye dur­ing flow­er­ing, and this pic­ture went to every­one. After a friend said: “Arty­om, if you like sculp­ture so much, let’s go to the Pushkin Muse­um.” It was at this point that the biggest shift in my pho­tog­ra­phy took place — I was intro­duced to aca­d­e­m­ic art, sculp­ture, Renais­sance, Baroque and Goth­ic archi­tec­ture. I fell in love with archi­tec­ture. In its form, con­tent, in the way his­tor­i­cal epochs stand out from each oth­er, what ele­ments attract atten­tion. At that moment, I had a click, and I began to pur­pose­ful­ly shoot archi­tec­ture.

Stat­ue in Kolomen­skoye dur­ing flow­er­ing / Pho­to: Artem Aru­tyunov / vk.com/cons_ph

— Are there any prin­ci­ples that you have car­ried over from past expe­ri­ence into archi­tec­tur­al pho­tog­ra­phy?

Refine­ment of col­or con­tent, cre­ation of a unique pic­ture. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I did not trans­fer any­thing in terms of the form from the shoot­ing of aca­d­e­m­ic art. When you shoot it, you shoot what is, with­out invent­ing it. Oth­er­wise, it may turn out to be non­sense, because there is a lot tied to the con­nec­tion of chiaroscuro and col­or.

When shoot­ing art, col­or pro­cess­ing should be thought out in detail, says Artem / Pho­to: Artem Aru­tyunov / vk.com/cons_ph

— Can you sin­gle out the per­son­al prin­ci­ples of archi­tec­tur­al pho­tog­ra­phy that you try not to devi­ate from?

I have only one prin­ci­ple — to shoot archi­tec­ture in such a way that there is noth­ing in the pic­ture that would dis­tract the view­er’s atten­tion. Oth­er objects, peo­ple, visu­al garbage. My goal is to con­vey archi­tec­ture in the most abstract and mean­ing­ful way pos­si­ble.

— What artists, pho­tog­ra­phers, direc­tors inspire you? Who do you think influ­enced you the most?

I am self-taught, so for me the most impor­tant point is the lack of ref­er­ence. I try not to con­tact oth­er authors, not to take inspir­ing moments from films and oth­er mass media prod­ucts. I am a sup­port­er of the max­i­mum iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of myself with my activ­i­ty, and I want it to be a reflec­tion of my views on the world, prin­ci­ples, ideas. The moment I start replac­ing my ideas with ref­er­ences and some­thing seen from the out­side, I will start replac­ing my own iden­ti­ty.

Pho­to: Artem Aru­tyunov / vk.com/cons_ph / vk.com/luxnocturnal

I try to be in an infor­ma­tion vac­u­um. For exam­ple, I almost nev­er scroll through the Insta­gram and VK feeds. I love uncom­pli­cat­ed rea­son, pure flight of con­scious­ness. Then you cre­ate the most “hon­est” prod­uct. Because it is yours, you saw it your­self, paint­ed it your­self, filmed it your­self. If you come to a loca­tion to do like some­one else, then this is already an unnec­es­sary activ­i­ty. There are already many such pho­tog­ra­phers, but I try to be myself.

— How to find your style in archi­tec­tur­al pho­tog­ra­phy?

You need to under­stand what you like, what touch­es you, makes you reflect, what would you like to show. Every­thing depends on the response, method and pre­sen­ta­tion. Archi­tec­ture is a com­plete object. The peo­ple who built the build­ing designed it to be as pho­to­genic as pos­si­ble. From myself, it remains to add only a look and per­cep­tion. Archi­tec­tur­al pho­tog­ra­phy rests not on the idea, but on visu­al and aes­thet­ic tech­niques. There­fore, the search for style is to fol­low your own taste pref­er­ences.

Pho­to: Artem Aru­tyunov / vk.com/cons_ph / vk.com/luxnocturnal

About preparation for shooting and technical equipment of a photographer-architecturalist

How do you choose a sub­ject for shoot­ing?

There are no clear cri­te­ria. Every­thing rests on my sub­jec­tive per­cep­tion, a sense of aes­thet­ics and beau­ty. That is, if I under­stand that I can shoot this object some­how wrong, bring some­thing autho­r­i­al, then I take up shoot­ing.

How do you pre­pare for film­ing?

It’s all pret­ty pro­sa­ic. I go to the site suncalc.net and, if the object is in Moscow, I def­i­nite­ly look at the sun­di­al to under­stand what time is best to be there so as not to shoot against the light. I also often get along with the cards, because going through the whole of Moscow is a rather dif­fi­cult task. Of course, I did it, because I shoot archi­tec­ture for a long time, but just wan­der­ing around the indus­tri­al zones is a stu­pid idea. There­fore, it is bet­ter to study the panora­mas, high­light the areas where it is most inter­est­ing to shoot. I call it “loca­tion scout­ing”.

Pho­to: Artem Aru­tyunov / vk.com/cons_ph / vk.com/luxnocturnal

- What tech­nique do you use?

I start­ed with a Canon 6d and my stock lens was a first gen­er­a­tion 24–105mm f/4. But he was very soft and was quite dark for shoot­ing inte­ri­ors. So I switched to a Canon 5d Mark IV and sec­ond gen­er­a­tion Canon 24–70 f/2.8 lens. It’s very sharp and gives great detail.

Often archi­tects first of all buy ultra-wide lens­es like 11–24mm, 17–35mm, fish­eye. But I advise you to work on 24mm. Ultra-wide angles great­ly dis­tort the per­spec­tive, the lines become crooked.

If you like a wide angle, great. But I think that the archi­tec­ture should be cor­rect­ed in post-pro­cess­ing. There are fea­tures of focal lengths, dis­tor­tions, nat­ur­al dis­tor­tions. And, if you shoot at a wide angle, espe­cial­ly at 15mm, then the pic­ture will always fit you. Do you need such a wide angle? In Moscow, there are few places and even the inte­ri­ors of cathe­drals, muse­ums, where 15mm is applic­a­ble.

— Have there been cas­es when you were not allowed to pho­to­graph the select­ed object?

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I have many sto­ries when I was for­bid­den to shoot. For exam­ple, the Chopovites ran up and shout­ed that this was a pri­vate ter­ri­to­ry. It did­n’t mat­ter to them that by law I could be here, because this is a pub­lic space. They threat­ened to call the police, and I explained that a pri­vate area is an area enclosed by a fence, a bar­ri­er, or they have papers con­firm­ing that they bought this area from the munic­i­pal­i­ties. To this they told me that they would not show any papers, get out, but they refused to call the police, although I offered.

There is such a joke. How to under­stand where you are? If every five min­utes a guard who has the watch­man’s syn­drome and who for­bids film­ing does not come up, then you are not on the ter­ri­to­ry of the post-Sovi­et space. In no oth­er coun­try have I ever been approached with this ques­tion.

Pho­to: Artem Aru­tyunov / vk.com/cons_ph / vk.com/luxnocturnal

Anoth­er prob­lem is that in fact we can not shoot tem­ples. As soon as you enter the tem­ple and raise the cam­era, you are imme­di­ate­ly sur­round­ed by guards, abbots. In Europe, I can freely shoot almost all cathe­drals with­out using a tri­pod and flash. In Rus­sia, you need to get per­mis­sion. For exam­ple, pho­tog­ra­phy is pro­hib­it­ed in the Cathe­dral of Christ the Sav­ior. To do this, you need to write to the abbot, ask for per­mis­sion, and then show it to each guard, because absolute­ly every­one will approach you. It kills the fun of the process, it makes no sense. I am for peo­ple to enjoy, so that cer­tain process­es do not turn into tor­ture.

About post-processing

How impor­tant is post-pro­cess­ing to you?

Post-pro­duc­tion is the most impor­tant thing for me. For exam­ple, in inte­ri­or shoot­ing there are often a lot of yel­low lamps. In fact, you end up with a pic­ture that has 50 shades of yel­low, and I don’t like that. I like to twist the slid­ers, to search. Plus, for me, the pic­ture tak­en from the cam­era is not a clear rep­re­sen­ta­tion of what it real­ly is, it is very far from my cre­ative per­cep­tion, so often every­thing needs to be fin­ished in graph­ic edi­tors.

For the ini­tial con­ver­sion, Artem uses Light­room, and then goes to Pho­to­shop, where he works for an hour on each image / Pho­to: Artem Aru­tyunov / vk.com/cons_ph

— What are the most impor­tant moments in the post-pro­cess­ing of archi­tec­tur­al pho­tog­ra­phy?

I think the most dif­fi­cult moments are relat­ed to the con­cept you are shoot­ing. The same per­son can do very dif­fer­ent things with­in dif­fer­ent ideas. For exam­ple, some­times I want to show the moment imme­di­ate­ly after the rain, some­times I want to show as many col­ors, bright­ness, Supre­ma­tism as pos­si­ble.

Archi­tec­tur­al pho­tog­ra­phy is a good can­vas and can be paint­ed how­ev­er you like. But, on the oth­er hand, you need a sense of style and taste, so as not to turn it all into some kind of kitsch. You need to under­stand how col­ors inter­act with each oth­er, how not to break the pic­ture with white bal­ance.

My rec­om­men­da­tion is to always think ahead, not after the fact.

— What do you find more dif­fi­cult in archi­tec­tur­al pho­tog­ra­phy: shoot­ing or edit­ing?

A tricky ques­tion, because both shoot­ing and edit­ing will be easy if you come to the shoot with a cer­tain cre­ative sense of the place. If you come with the con­scious­ness that you want to show, it will be easy. Anoth­er ques­tion is whether you have a pic­ture in your head, what dic­tat­ed it. That is, it is a ques­tion of prepa­ra­tion for shoot­ing, stuffed hands.
When you are just start­ing, of course, it will not be easy to remove, and even hard­er to process. A lot also rests on tech­ni­cal issues — the pres­ence of the nec­es­sary optics, light, a cam­era that will not allow detail to be lost and noise to appear.

Pho­to: Artem Aru­tyunov / vk.com/cons_ph / vk.com/luxnocturnal

Advice for newbies

I will have two the­ses. One is about com­merce, the oth­er is about cre­ativ­i­ty.
If you came into this field to make mon­ey, this is prob­a­bly your most stu­pid attempt. Shoot­ing archi­tec­ture for mon­ey is almost impos­si­ble in our coun­try.

Work­ing in the archi­tec­tur­al bureau is a com­pet­i­tive and very dif­fi­cult envi­ron­ment to break through. Most often they use the ser­vices of design­ers who make ren­der­ings. If we talk about real estate agen­cies, then you will sim­ply hate archi­tec­ture when you shoot for agen­cies. This is always a TK and there is noth­ing inter­est­ing there. You just use a wide angle, shoot inte­ri­ors so that lux­u­ry apart­ments sell. If I were you, of course, I would try to com­mer­cial­ize, but that this should not be an end in itself. There is not much mon­ey in archi­tec­tur­al pho­tog­ra­phy in Rus­sia.

About cre­ativ­i­ty. Every­thing will be based on what you want to show, why you want to show and why you want to show. Fur­ther, every­thing will rest only on your cre­ative per­cep­tion, abil­i­ties, style, tech­ni­cal equip­ment.

I think the author’s style is over­rat­ed. Your style is an ever-chang­ing par­a­digm in which you can build some­thing new, add and remove. You should nev­er be tied to some rigid prin­ci­ple that guides all your cre­ativ­i­ty.

Pho­to: Artem Aru­tyunov / vk.com/cons_ph / vk.com/luxnocturnal

Archi­tec­tur­al pho­tog­ra­phy is all about the skill of work­ing with the source mate­r­i­al and its pre­sen­ta­tion. Do what you love, don’t get dis­tract­ed by stu­pid fac­tors like trends. I believe that at the moment when each author begins to pur­sue only his own vision, we will get a real author’s envi­ron­ment, and not a ser­pen­tar­i­um that we don’t want to be relat­ed to. Indeed, most often it rests on inten­sives, mas­ter class­es and “let’s raise mon­ey”. It’s not about cre­ativ­i­ty. Cre­ativ­i­ty is about desire, abil­i­ty and ambi­tion. So look for your­self.