Photographing nightlife is a hard gig for many reasons. You have to contend with owners who want to censor your shots in order to protect boldface names seeking hedonistic refuge within their venues. You need to be in the right place at the right time to capture the right moment to properly convey the essence of the night, event or party. And you have to be able to hang; proverbially in the cool sense of the word (it paves the way to trust and acceptance by the clientele) and physically, as most gigs last until the wee hours of the morning.
Kirill Bichutsky ticks all those boxes and more. The 26-year-old photog expertly mans a hefty Nikon nearly every night of the week, chronicling the craziness at places such as LAVO, Juliet Supper Club, RdV, SL and 1OAK, all in NYC. But the resulting pictures, which he is happy to give away for free on his site www.kirillwashere.com, are anything but the bland, rote, posed pictures of cheesy i-bankers crowded around a magnum of DP Rose. Instead, they convey energy; a sense of excitement that leads those displayed in the pixels to later proclaim he shot the perfect moment. Bichutsky breaks down his process of approaching his job, why you need him (or someone like him) in your venue and why shooting while drinking is a benefit.
NCC: How do you size up a room when you’re working?
Kirill Bichutsky: I’m watching people constantly. Watching tables and watching people interact. I like to read a crowd first, see where the action is or where I think it will be and that’s what and why I shoot. It’s psychological plotting as much as it is the physical act of shooting. I don’t typically like taking photos of people when I’m sober. The alcohol helps me be a lot more social, and I don’t care as much when people shoot me down when I want to take their picture.
NCC: What’s the importance of hiring someone like you to shoot in a venue?
KB: It’s kind of interesting. I have to figure out why people want to pay me to do this. At first, I just did it for the fun. While a lot of clubs like photographers, some don’t, depending on the image they want to portray. Some spaces want to show the world how crazy they are; others don’t want you knowing what goes on beyond their doors. At the beginning I didn’t have much to offer, beyond photos. But now, they’re not hiring a photographer; they’re hiring a marketer. My site traffic is so big they’re essentially getting an ad on my site, and the word of mouth recommendation that comes along with it. If you see that a celebrity dropped by Juliet the other night, you’ll consider going there when you’re planning a night out. Or you can see how many hot girls were at The Blind Barber and choose to head there. This isn’t about buying the art or pictures anymore; it’s about getting a trusted referral.
NCC: If a nightclub is going to use photographers, what should they bear in mind?
KB: You can’t have more than one photographer in the room. Ever. You want people who are your repeat table clients to trust the photographer, and the only way they can do that is if it’s the same person, and they’re not questioning what the photographer is doing with those photos. When you see the same tables over and over, they become friends and family. And the club benefits from that, because now they have an added value proposition: the clients can get photos of themselves having such a fantastic time. The photographer should be just another person on staff. That’s how to work it best.
NCC: When shooting a raucous party, how technical are you with the camera?
KB: Honestly, it’s not about the quality of the photo. Sure, it has to be relatively clear and the lighting has to be decent, but it’s really about the moments you capture and how you show people interacting with each other. They want to remember that one singular moment when they’re spraying Champagne at each other, standing on top of their tables. I just want to give them that in a photo.