From London to Tokyo, photographer Sid Brunskill has traveled the world capturing beautiful buildings and stunning cities. From skyscrapers to spiral staircases, his shots are filled with gorgeous architecture. We got in touch to find out more about the art of architectural photography, placing people in the frame and why he chooses to shoot on film.
Hello, Sid! Welcome to the Lomography Magazine. Please tell us a little about yourself — what got you into photography?
Hello and thanks for having me! I’d say I started in 2015. After finishing school I was in a really bad rut and wasn’t sure what to do next. Originally I was trying to work towards a film/TV related job, but school washed away my inspiration and I wasn’t sure what my next move should be. So I started posting to Instagram more regularly as a way to stay productive and at least have something to show people. That summer I joined a work experience scheme at a local arts center, and they asked if I could do some event photography for them. At first I was hesitant but eventually, I began quite enjoying it, and I decided to pursue photography further.
What is it that draws you to architecture? Is it something that you’ve always wanted to make your photographic focus, or something that you’ve fallen into as you’ve spent more time behind the camera?
The current style of my photos is something I’ve fallen into over time, but for as long as I can remember the city and urban environments have always intrigued me, particularly at night seeing all the buildings light up.
Architecture is also a really important aspect of our everyday lives and has an effect on our mental wellbeing. People always say form follows function, but to some degree form is function and a lot of buildings are very uninspiring to look at. I like to document what I think are the nicer sides, either to appreciate a building I’m not keen on or to document a building I do like.
We love the composition in your shots — the way you balance sharp angles and fuse old and new. What do you look for when you’re composing a shot?
It’s a balancing act, you don’t want it to be too bare and you don’t want it to be too busy. There are a lot of times where I really like the look of something but it’s surrounded by too much which doesn’t fit the scene, or the smaller details clash making them too hard to notice.
Often I’ll hang about for a bit trying to get different angles. It’s rarely as quick as pointing and shooting — sometimes you stand for a while wondering where things will line up properly, walking back and forth, going through different focal lengths, then the sun comes out and the shadows look great and you realize that’s the shot you’re after. Many photos are taken first time, but it’s well worth standing around for 10 or so minutes pondering the scene.
Your work quite often incorporates the people who live in and around the buildings you capture, adding a narrative element to your frame. How do you find taking photos of people on the street, and what do you think your subjects add to your shot?
Part of it is to give a sense of scale, but what’s more important is the human factor — it allows the viewer to relate to a scene by seeing a person in it, they can envision themselves there too. If there are no people then it looks a bit lonely, and to some degree uncanny. If there aren’t any people then there’s less to relate to and empathize with. With that being said, you may aim to make it uncanny. The gist of it is — what attracts people is other people.
The number of people in a shot is important, too — in a lot of cases you don’t want too many people otherwise it gets too busy and the architecture becomes secondary. There’s also where they’re placed in the frame, as you want them to be incorporated into the shot but not too obvious. Then you get into what clothes they’re wearing, and in most cases if you wait for long enough someone with a nice coat or dress will stroll past or just the right colors to match the scene. It’s another reason why you need to spend time taking a photo.
Do you have a favorite architectural shot that you’ve taken? Could you tell us a little about the story behind it, please, and why you like it so much?
Tough choice! But I would probably go with a picture I took of a fishmonger in Tokyo. It was taken just before dark so the light was very smooth and the shop sign was on. I love the slight green tint of the sign’s light and the way it reflects off of the buildings next to it, the fishmonger himself doing some work before closing, and the sky completely replaced by one huge skyscraper.
Most of these gorgeous pictures are taken on film. Why do you shoot analogue?
Lately, my main film camera has been the Olympus Mju-II — I actually have two of them so that I can shoot two film stocks at once. It’s such a straightforward camera but with an exceptional lens. It takes away any need to think about exposure and focus, letting you concentrate on framing and subject matter. It’s also weather-proof, and being so small it’s a lot more discreet and easier to travel with. There just aren’t any digital cameras that are this simple with such good lenses. Every digital camera needs all the features and a big touchscreen, and often that stuff serves as a distraction from the picture taking.
You’ve taken quite a few pictures on instant film. What inspired you to try instant photography?
Everybody loves an instant photo, being able to watch it develop right before their eyes. I remember getting an Instax camera and thinking I’d just shoot a couple of packs, but with a new set of limitations and challenges I kept testing its limits and I now have a sea of Instax photos.
Compared to normal film, it’s more physical — it goes straight from lens to print, rather than needing to be scanned and printed or seen on a screen. And each photo is the only one in existence — you can’t really copy or reprint an Instax without changing its form. The ones I’ve sent in are a fraction of what I’ve got. I plan to put the best ones in a frame and have them exhibited.
You’ve traveled all over the world taking pictures of beautiful buildings and stunning streets. Which has been your favorite place, and where would you like to go next? Why?
I would definitely say Tokyo is my favorite place. Everything is so clean and neat, everything looks like it was built yesterday. It’s also so peaceful and safe despite being such a big city. I hope to return to Japan for a longer trip and visit Kyoto too. For architecture, Dubai and Hong Kong are high on my list. And in general, I’m pretty keen to visit Florida and Hawaii.
We don’t get many architectural photographers on the Lomography Magazine. What would be your advice to anyone interested in giving it a try? Are there any photographers that have inspired you?
There are so many different architectural styles to explore, you can pretty much form your own world based on your favorite style, it doesn’t need to be based on what you see other people posting. It’s also fun to visit popular spots to add to your collection and go on photo walks with the wider community.
As for inspiring photographers I have to give a big shoutout to my good friend Jorge Alva (@urbanentdecker_, my photography skills wouldn’t be where they are today without his inspiration. And another is Mike Kelley (@mpkelley_, I find everything about his photos to be very tasteful and not overdone (I also have a slight interest in aviation, too). Also, all the people on Instagram who keep up the good spirits.
What’s next for Sid Brunskill? Any exciting projects coming up?
I’m hoping to get back to filmmaking, I say this all the time but it’ll happen eventually. I’ve got some ideas and I need to figure out what kind of scale I can actually make them on. I’m also going to make some sort of booklet of my photos in Cuba, sort of in a zine format. Another thing I’d like to do is to start an e-receipt company.