PHOTOGRAPHER SPOTLIGHT: The quasi-regular series that takes you behind the lens with some of Cincinnati's most prominent (or just really talented) photographers.
THIS INSTALLMENT: Phil Armstrong works to live -- not the other way around. Though a corporate job keeps him in a cubicle 40 hours a week, that doesn't stop him from spending the rest of the 128 developing his own creative lifestyle. "I only have one spin around the globe, so I need to express myself through photography, painting, sketching, and writing in order to generate as much as I possibly can in the time I have."
Cincinnati Refined: What got you hooked on photography?
Armstrong: Honestly, just by frequently looking up. In downtown and Over-the-Rhine, I started noticing all the different styles of architecture on every single block. If you actually look up at the Germania Building at 12th and Walnut, you'll notice how beautifully put together the facade is. If you look up at the old Times-Star Building on Broadway, you'll notice every side has a beautifully crafted statue rounding out the corner among other insanely brilliant Art Deco features. I kept seeing thousands of gorgeous little details all over our city and wanted to document them in a deliberate fashion and share them with others. There's a nearly endless supply of overlooked artistry amidst the brick and stone that make up the urban core and immediate suburbs, and photography was the easiest way to capture as much of it as I can.
CR: Favorite subject to shoot?
Armstrong: Closeups of architecture, specifically the artistic elements of older buildings. The 19th century Italianate in Over-the-Rhine, the Art Deco of the twenties that's scattered across the city, and so many other details woven into every building from various other decades in our history.
CR: Camera of choice?
Armstrong: I'm using a Nikon D3200.
CR: The one lens you can't live without
Armstrong: My trusty 70-300mm. I discovered the sorrowful faces at the top of PNC Tower with it while at the top of Pogue's Garage last summer and realized I'd probably never notice them without the ability to zoom in that close from so far away. It's invaluable for the type of photography I enjoy doing most.
CR: What's at the top of your photography bucket list?
Armstrong: I want to get inside Times-Star and see every inch of it since I've studied the exterior for so long. It's my favorite building in the city, and it's ignored by so many photographers. I've taken hundreds of shots from the outside, meticulously pouring over the animal skulls, birds, and floral designs chiseled into the limestone alongside the gargoyle heads in the rear, and many representations of historic figures related to the field of printing and publishing all over every side of it. It's an absolutely incredible building.
CR: Any advice for aspiring photographers?
Armstrong: Shoot for the love of the subject, and shoot for you. This is your art. It doesn't matter if the corbelling on that building built in 1888 interests anyone but you.
CR: How would you describe your passion for the Queen City/ how do you see photography as a medium to showcase it?
Armstrong: I'm a native of this city and I plan to live out the rest of my days here. This is home; I have so many memories, good and bad, buried firmly in the soil of the Queen City. I'm in awe of where we've come from and where we're going. We have so much history and art to be proud of, not to mention an abundance of architectural wonders lining our familiar streets to remind us of the unique Cincinnatian ingenuity we've had since the earliest days of Losantiville. Photography has integrity; it's the perfect way to capture both my history and the history of the city, as well as the art around us, every time the shutter closes to process a new moment in time.
CR: What's an interesting fact/ anecdote about yourself?
Armstrong: My sense of humor is often perceived as drought-like, I have an obsession with geography and mapping, and dogs are equal measures "the greatest" and "my favorite." I painted the 1945 Yalta Conference once.
CR: Motto to live by?
Armstrong: If you're feeling anxious, iron a shirt to any Bon Iver song and you'll more than likely relax.
If you like what you've read, just wait until you flip through the photo gallery to get an up-close encounter with those gargoyles. And if you're really digging Mr. Armstrong's style, you can follow him on Instagram + check out his website.