Nathan Stowell, photographer


Text and photos by Nathan 

At first glance, Moscow can come across as a photogenically unwelcoming canvas for the amateur photographer. Red Square can only be snapped so many times before your Krushevka-ridden neighborhood convinces you there’s nothing else to shoot, and it’s time to put away the camera. In reality, there’s a wealth of photography opportunities in Moscow. Like most things worth experiencing in Moscow, it just takes a little digging under the surface.

When I first came to Moscow long-term in 1993, there were a lot of things I missed from home, but what frustrated me most was the difficulty in finding a darkroom. For me, taking a picture was less than half the proverbial battle. The joy of photography was post-processing. Enlargers, red-lights, burning, dodging, developer, stopper, and the occasional nostril-burning smell of sepia tone were what photography was really about. Without that, there seemed to be little point. And the advent of digital cameras seemed a perversion to me.

stowell2But a cursory glance at photography history shows that as the medium evolves becoming more and more accessible (something many may lament), the opportunities multiply. It’s easy to forget that slightly under 200 years ago, you needed silver plates to show your pictures. Light-sensitive paper surely irked earlier photographers, but it allowed a far greater number of people to show the rest of us what they saw. The gradual evolution of photography from darkrooms to computer screens may similarly convince some that it’s too accessible, but with the growth comes greater quantities of unique views and ability to post-process in ways we never dreamed were possible. Entire fields of artistic expression have sprung up requiring us to distinguish between photo-realism and photo-shopped. There’s so much to see now.

One Russian resource is the website It’s almost ingenious in its simplicity. Photographers post their artistic shots for others to comment on. Over 1000 images a day go up in a myriad of categories from architecture and interior to the city to landscapes or nudes or macros (and recently to bridge the mediums between traditional and digital, they host a monthly exhibition selecting the best shot every day from the previous month). It’s Instagram without pics of dinner.

stowellMoscow has changed a lot since 1993 as well. For an architectural photographer, new buildings and renovation provide a wealth of potential shots. One avenue I’ve taken is taking pictures of office-buildings for real-estate companies’ brochures and selling landmark Moscow shots to restaurants for their interior design. I never realized that my love for symmetry, leading lines and abstract shapes could actually serve as a means of supplemental income. Sometimes, the digging for opportunities really does mean going underground. A recent series of photographs I took was from Moscow’s metro stations late at night. You can shoot down there as long as you don’t have stationary equipment like tripods.

There are other opportunities as well. I moderate a local forum’s photography folder in addition to light event-photography for friends and colleagues. The virtual aspect photography has begun to develop eventually encouraged me to open my own website (hosted inexpensively by Utilizing the advances in photography’s technology can keep you visible.

There’s much to do with photography in Moscow. Take advantage of the broadening world of photography advances and explore how your specific photographic specialty might be of interest to others. Make yourself known by sharing your work and keep digging.

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