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Arman Harutyunyan Interview Panopticon mobile photography

Arman Harutyunyan: Accidental Photography

When I started I was influenced by some directors who were mainly doing feature films, not documentaries. In the beginning, it was mostly Béla Tarr. He was a great influence on me. His picture and aesthetics. I tried to express his visual influence on me. That is how I started. I love Boris Mikaylov a lot. The way he explores social aspects and his phenomenal ability to blend into the situation. I did learn and am still learning a lot from him. I love Bruce Gilden for almost the same reason.

From New York street photography idols Joel Meyerowitz. Garry Winogrand was a big influence as well on how he caught the moment in chaotic situations. I love the photography of Lee Friedlander a lot. The way he ignores the composition, the way he gets “accidental” shots. It doesn’t matter if it is the right angle. He has great photos which classically are “bad”, but at the same time, they are gorgeous.

Arman Harutyunyan Interview Panopticon. dktsk

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And what do you seek in the shot?

Any movement can be interesting. I don’t look for anything specific. But I am more interested in people. It is like research work for me.

Do you prefer digital vs analog?

It depends. I used both analog and digital, but now I shoot on mobile a lot. But overall, it doesn’t matter to me. I used to be into analog because of the fantastic aesthetics it provides. But I had not enough knowledge and experience to continue. So over time, I chose the mobile phone as it was fast and compact. Now I combine it with a small Fujifilm. I prefer the opportunity to be mobile and fast.

So mobile photography was just a technical choice?

Kind of. There is no big concept behind it. It is comfortable. It gives you speed and freedom to take unexpected shots and use not-so-comfortable angles. Plus technology evolved and the quality of digital photography evolved as well.

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Do you think that aesthetics brings its own context?

Of course, it does. Even though I am not a film maximalist who thinks that only analog brings the “real” aesthetics but at the same time I think that you can’t get anything you want with any camera. Like you can use Nokia 6400, and it will bring its aesthetics, therefore narrative.

Why?

Because it has the latest technology and brings the quality. Weaker counterparts and mobile phones have less quality and bring specific aesthetics even though they are considered “bad”.

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How do people react when they notice you shooting them? What is their reaction?

It depends. Once a guy asked me to show him his photo and asked me to send it to his email. An old lady once grabbed my hand and said, “son of a bitch”. Usually, they ask why I am shooting. If I am in a mood, I can explain that I am not specifically shooting them, it is just a public event. Reactions are mixed. They think I am kind of a spy and I will pass photos to KGB, so they would arrest them. Or photos will happen in some sort of porn or some “bad” website. Luckily, I never got into trouble.

How do you work?

Usually, I feel very comfortable in crowded events. It can be a protest, a concert, or people dancing during a DJ set. I blend easily and turn invisible. Sure, they can notice me, but I move around a lot. So when I return to my previous spot, people are different there. Street photography needs to be mobile and move a lot.

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I like to act on accidental moments and movements when people don’t expect to be shot. I like catching the movement. I always wait for it. I like breaking the 4th wall, so to speak. I like catching someone’s look from the crowd. Like the way protagonist looks at the camera. I like catching that meaningful moment. I love to photograph everything that moves or does not, be it photography or videography. You can call it a social documentalism.

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