One Photographer’s Love of the App, and Our Love of the Results

A true contemporary photographer, Ruth Efrati Epstein‘s love of photography was born on Instagram in 2011 when she first got the app on her (then) new iPhone 4s. For this Chicago-based photographer, it was the app’s on-the-move functionality and extensive community of like-minded and engaged photographers that cinched her interest, and she now publishes a diverse collection of portraiture, street photography, architectural, and abstract images under the handle @80degrees.


But an eye for aesthetic detail is what you pick up in a career like Ruth’s, editing films for advertising, cinema, corporations, and not-for-profits alongside some of the world’s best cinematographers. What’s different about her work is the narrative allure of human figures among the structural forms.

“Storytelling is key to me, and I prefer to share Instagram images that allow people to interpret their own meaning.”


This selection of spotless architectural photography was taken during her travels across the US and abroad, and forms part of a larger collection of work that’s the result of what has become a healing and meditative photographic process for Ruth. We wanted her to tell her own story.


THE PLUS: Where are the buildings you’ve included here? When do you take these photos?
Ruth Efrati Epstein:
You will see selections here from Chicago, Milwaukee, New York City, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Miami Beach, Granada, Barcelona and Jerusalem. I like to take my time looking for places to photograph, finding the right composition and waiting for my shots to unfold in a way that I like.

TP: Your architecture photography is very clean – what makes a structure catch your eye?
I love to explore shapes, colour and visual rhythm. Composition and geometry are often central in my photos. Maybe it’s my way of making order out of chaos, peace out of tumult. That has me gravitate to either very classic architectural places with colonnades or arches, for example, and very contemporary new buildings. I love grand spaces.


TP: Your photos often include people – what do you think human figures to architectural photography?
I love the humanity that people add. The – mostly – strangers in many of my architectural photos add a sense of life, scale and depth. These are not portraits of people that I’m shooting, but portraits of how a place makes me feel.

TP: You’ve got plenty of Instagram followers – is encouraging interest in architecture something you’re keen on?
I find that mostly to be a result of how long I’ve been on Instagram. Honestly, I’ve never given any thought to what interests my photos encourage, whether architecture or anything else. I hope people find stimulation in the act of ‘seeing’ the wondrous places that surround them, no matter what they are.


TP: With all this urban work, are you more at home in the city or in the country?
I am much more at home in a dense urban environment, because it’s what I know best. I grew up in and have always lived in Chicago, which is a city with significant architecture and culture. I love being in nature, very much, but I’m not ‘at home’ there and I find that I have no idea how to shoot landscapes that aren’t urban!

TP: If you were a building, which building would you be?
I think I am a building yet to be built, a work still being envisioned. Being a breathtaking museum filled with art and joyful, contemplative people would make me happy. As would being one of Calatrava’s train stations. Life surrounded by beauty.