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1. What are your main sources of inspiration?

[Laughing] Probably one of my favorite questions ever! I don’t think there’s one single answer. But when my heart, eyes and intuition tell me, “whoa slow down, there’s a shot here” then I stop or I know I’ll regret it later. Sometimes, it depends on my mood — I can be walking around some sleepy neighborhood in the evening, listening to Tsoi [Viktor Tsoi] and the sky will be this cool blue color and warm light will be pouring from the windows…That’s when I do my best work. That’s when my photographs have these warm and soulful qualities to them, regardless of whether I shoot architecture or people. At the same time, I enjoy shooting during sunrises and sunsets, especially old architecture or the usual places, but from a different angle.

Another source of inspiration for me is cinema and animation. My mind tends to complete scenes from real life like the ones in movies. Then I try to come back and recreate what I had in mind, but sometimes it fails to work. Then I tell myself “dude, that bombed”. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen that often.


Sofiyivska Square. Photo by Sergiy Ristenko

2. How do you plan a photo shoot? Is there a certain degree of spontaneity or do you depend on weather conditions and lighting?

I rarely plan these outings. Over time, I have developed a sense for them – I check out the weather forecast the night before, glance out of the window and more or less can predict what to expect at sunrise. I’ve also learned to tell where and how the light will fall. But I always face a dilemma after — choosing a location. I do have some priority spots, where I wanted to shoot for a long time. But sometimes, I make the wisest decision of all — to stay in bed [laughs]. Or I can just be in the city, taking care of some things, while making mental notes in my head of certain places and lighting. Then I try to come back to recreate them, but alas it doesn’t always work out.

Truth be told, I always try to carry a drone and a camera with me at all times. Like the song in the movie goes, “I’m a filmmaker on my own…so I take my camera with me everywhere I go”. Otherwise, how are people going to believe me when I tell them about that insanely beautiful light and moment? I think I’m like a samurai in that sense — “I don’t have a goal, only the way”. Since I like to take pictures primarily in unusual lighting and odd weather conditions, I set out to take photographs without knowing for sure if I’ll be successful or not. It’s like shopping at a flea market: you never know whether you’ll come across a treasure trove. Of course, if it’s a commercial photo shoot, then yeah, I try to make sure that everything is in place one or two days in advance – do a location scout, figure out when to shoot. It always makes the job a lot easier.


New Darnytskyi Bridge. Photo by Sergiy Ristenko

3. Do you prefer classic or contemporary art? Are there any contemporary artists and photographers whose work you admire?

I have to be honest — my head is filled with all kinds of beautiful things I see everywhere, so it’s hard to choose one thing or another. I take bits and pieces from all fields of art. For instance, in paintings I pay attention to lighting and composition, whereas in photography — moment and narrative. I have a hard time remembering names, but I would single out Edward Hopper — his use of color, lighting and storytelling technique is very similar to my own. Photographers, on the other hand…I like artists who work in multiple genres. I wish I could say more, but alas…I would say Ranchukov and Falin from the older generation, and from the younger roster – Vlad Vasylkevych, Dima Bogachuk, Sergei Sarakhanov, Sasha Nesterovskyi, Sasha Chekmenev and many others, whose names I’m afraid I cannot recall, no offense, but whose works I would recognize in a heartbeat. They are the photographers which I’m personally acquainted with, who are not only talented, but great people too. And that means a lot.


Obolon District. Photo by Sergiy Ristenko

4. Your book “Kyiv On Air” has been re-published in the summer of 2021. It has been altered significantly — one fourth of it has been subjected to change. What new material has been added and what has been removed?

Let’s put it this way — the book has been “updated” like the iPhone's IOS system. After a year since my book has been released, I collected some great new material, and I thought it would be a shame to store it away. I selected what were, in my humble opinion, the best pictures and started to juxtapose them with existing ones. After what seemed like a hundred thousand views, I settled on a new layout — if my previous photos were objectively weaker than my new ones, I would swap them. The hard part was to maintain the flow of the book: its existing narrative and layout compositions. In the end, I had a more visually appealing interior of my second book, which in no way should cast a shadow on its first edition. It will be equally loved by me, like a family’s firstborn child.

5. What are your plans for the future? What other branches of photography would you like to explore?


I’ll answer in a proverb — “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans”. Although…For many years now, I have been taking pictures with a camera, as well as a drone. I rarely post them on social media, if ever. But recently, I have been looking over them and realized there’s enough material for an entire book or even two! So, I’ve been slowly working in this direction and later we’ll see what becomes of it. As a photographer, I know that I can’t work in only one style, otherwise I’ll lose my ‘scent’. Therefore, as soon as I realize that drone photography doesn't bring me joy, I switch to camera or film instead. So, I can honestly say that I’m never bored.


Sovky Park. Photo by Sergiy Ristenko

You can purchase Sergiy Ristenko’s book “Kyiv on Air” online


Translated by Anna Shevetovska


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