Travel Documentary Photography: Greece

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Every year for the last four years I have been able to travel to Greece as a seakayaking guide, able to create documentary photography on the side. It’s been a strange summer not being able to return to Greece. I’ve been craving salty cheese, piles of olives, and the sun a bit more than usual. I keep finding myself making Mediterranean meals and sitting in the sunniest spot I can find, trying desperately to simulate Greece.

For the past eight years, I have worked as a guide for the Girl Scouts of America within their Destinations programs (you can find a cool article I wrote about it here!). It has resulted in over twenty five guided trips around the world. Some were photography workshops, others were a bit more wild— like horseback riding in Mongolia. But Greece always held a soft spot in my heart. Maybe it was the multiple times I went to the same small island (here’s a post from 2017 of the same Greece trip), or the lovely community I was able to get to know and photograph year after year. Regardless, I will still continue to sit here eating feta and drinking Greek frappe’s until I can return once more. Maybe if I start to get carried away, I’ll even sit in a kayak in my living room and watch some GoPro YouTube videos of seakayaking.

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Mini-Documentary about my photography!

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For perhaps the first time in the history of being a photographer — I am posting a photo of myself! Well, maybe there’s a self-portrait or two in there. But it is not a common sight. And that is because, today I am announcing the release of a mini-documentary about my photography!

To say I am self conscious feels like an understatement. But now that I have said that, I can now say how excited I am to be a part of these series. To be paired with Fidalis Buehler feels like a huge honor. But also, the documentary is just beautiful. Ethan Vincent (who is credited to the above image) and his team did a wonderful job.

It was a wonderful experience to be able to revisit my Population 800 project, exploring a town I haven’t been to in years. It was the place that I took one of the main images for the project, a portrait of three men in a blizzard drinking coffee (which later won the LATITUDE portrait contest). If you are unfamiliar with the work, or just want to see more of it, you can visit it on my website.

The whole project was a fun reflection about my work. About the things I love to photograph, the stories I love to tell, and what’s important to me.

To see the full documentary, you can see it on the BYU TV website.

Please note:

1 – My segment starts half way

2 – I do not own a Dodge Charger.. that was the only rental car left when I flew out for filming.

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Food and Product Photography for Baba’s Hummus

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To celebrate opening up my home to in home studio shoots, I was able to create some product photography for the amazing Baba’s Hummus. The shoot was so much fun. Focusing on poppy, bright, modern colors and graphic designs, we were able to create fun images for their advertising. I’m just going to go out there too and say that this is, hands down, the best hummus I’ve had since being in the Middle East.

Being one of the first photoshoots I did since the beginning of the Coronavirus, it was interesting to be able to put all the precautions into place that we’ve been developing as a studio. The shoot was completely remote. The client wasn’t even in the same state (which is something I have experienced a lot even before the pandemic). But without a stylist, assistant, or even my big space, it was a bit of a change. However with some expectations, safety measures, and a lot of discussing before what the shoot would look like, we were able to pull off the shoot and leave the client happy.

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If you are interested in working with me, we don’t have to let the pandemic slow us down! From in home shoots, to on location shoots with extra safety measures taken, we can work together to get the images you need.

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“Dakota 38” Documentary Photography in Incandescent Magazine

The pandemic has thrown a lot of things off — including the publication of the documentary photography project I did on the Dakota 38 + 2 memorial ride. About a year and a half ago, I got the opportunity to photograph the Dakota 38 + 2 Wokiksuye memorial riders.

It was a beautiful ride. I was guided by many Elders from the various Dakota tribes, invited in, and encouraged to create this photo essay. And I couldn’t thank them enough for their help, support, and kindness.

The issue of Incandescent was meant to be out at the end of March, but is finally on shelves! Freckle Magazine is another that this story can be found in (also meant for April), but the new publication date is to be announced.

This little video was made by another contributor, but is a fun preview of the magazine! If you haven’t heard of Incandescent, I highly recommend picking up a copy and checking out the beautiful work they do.

Although print is nice, you can also read the full photo essay on my website.

To learn more about the ride, you can watch this free full length documentary by Smooth Feather.

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Broders’ Pasta Bar Food Photography

Over the last couple of years I’ve had the pleasure of doing the food and restaurant photography for Broders’ Restaurant Group. It’s been so much fun to go into their restaurant every week and photograph new dishes and all the exciting changes in their restaurants. I love being a part of a restaurant and being able to capture the life of the space.

Broders’ Pasta Bar is a cute restaurant specializing in homemade pastas. Every day they roll out beautiful pastas for their dishes. Plus the addition of seasonal ingredients, it is a place not to be missed.

Here is a collection of some of my most recent work for Broders’ Pasta Bar.

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To see more restaurant photography for Broders’ and other restaurants, check out my website!

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Documentary Photography: Population 800 on Dodho Magazine

“While obtaining my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Brigham Young University, I spent a lot of my time running away, finding a need to get out of Provo, then Utah, and then the United States.” – Artist Statement, Population 800, a documentary photography project by Christine Armbruster.

For many years I have been working on a documentary photography project many of you call my “small towns project”. Since moving to Minneapolis, I have been closing the doors on this project to allow room for others. It’s weird, it’s difficult, but it is time. To see the final project, head over to Dodho Magazine where it was recently published. Soon I will have everything up to date on my website, and eventually, an article including a review by James Swensen (art historian and professor at Brigham Young University) will be published in the Utah Historical Quarterly. When all those things happen, it will be announced here as well. In the meantime, check out the article on Dodho.

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Cafe Zupas Summer Menu: Commercial Food Photography Portland

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This past spring I was able to create the commercial food photography for the Cafe Zupas summer menu. It was a great shoot. We focused on the bright and vibrant colors of the summer foods. Watermelon radishes, beets, turmeric green tea, blackberries and basil. All the delicious flavors of summer topped with the earthy goodness of nuts and seeds. Creating the advertising photography for the Cafe Zupas seasonal campaigns are always fun. It’s a great team from the ad agency, stylist, and even a plaster team to create the surfaces. Cafe Zupas is expanding. So be sure to check out some of their new locations and try the menu before September 1.

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Seasonal special include (as taken from the Cafe Zupas website):

  • Summer Garden Bowl with Turmeric Lime Vinaigrette: Spinach and arugula blend , organic tri-color quinoa, cage-free chicken breast, pearl mozzarella, baby beets, grape tomatoes, watermelon radish, Persian cucumbers, micro greens, toasted seed blend
  • Chipotle Turkey Bacon Sandwich with House-Made Chipotle Spread: Turkey, applewood-smoked bacon, tomatoes, cabbage slaw, pickled red onions, muenster cheese
  • Fresh Strawberries and Cream Crème Brulee: Topped with whipped cream, pistachios and a strawberry
  • Turmeric Lime Green Tea: House-pressed lime juice, raw clover unfiltered honey, 100% pure coconut water, organic green tea, fresh ginger, Indian turmeric, Persian cucumbers
  • Blackberry Basil Infusion: House-pressed lime juice, raw clover unfiltered honey, 100% pure coconut water, fresh blackberries, whole basil

Art Direction by Propaganda Inc.

Styling by Sixteen Apples

Surfaces by Sixteen Apples and LimeStrong

Christine Armbruster is a photographer specializing in editorial style documentary work and commercial food photography in Portland. To see more work like this, visit her studio food photography portfolio.

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Karaganda: An editorial travel photo essay for Allied Feather and Down

In November and December I went to Kazakhstan. Partly to shoot personal work, partly for some serious amounts of alone time, and partly because I couldn’t see why not. I roved around from town to town, seeing what was interesting.  I came across a town called Karaganda (Qaraganda) and fell a bit for the idea of it. Industrial in the middle of nowhere. So I photographed a bit and then came home and worked with Allied Feather and Down to create an essay for them. Eventually this piece went up on their social platforms. I’ve posted bits and pieces on mine as well, but here is the full article.

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Kazakhstan wasn’t exactly built for tourists. It’s remote, visas are a roadblock, and most people can’t even spell it. If they can spell it, the likelihood of being able to point it out on a map is uncommon. I found two native English speakers, and one told me I was the first Western woman he had seen in months. In my opinion, a perfect location to travel.

In Karaganda, the only “tourist attraction” is the Karlag Gulag. Gulags were the Soviet work camps, usually in Siberia and other equally remote, daunting places. Famous for death marches through harsh climates to get there. And yet, Karaganda was so remote and so harsh, that nearly a million people were exiled here. The gulag is a ways out of town and fenced off. Arriving only to allow you to be a voyeur and let your imagination do the rest of the tour. The whole experience is so untouristic that I didn’t even know it existed until after I left.

Astana is known for it’s futuristic architecture.

Baikonur is home of the Russian space program.

Aralsk has a disappearing sea of salt.

Almaty is where apples originated.

Karaganda is home of _______ ? Mining? One of the largest gulags? Bad air quality? Being the exact middle of nowhere?

In America one might say your car was parked in BFE, you left your wallet in East Jabip. In Soviet days, if you car was far away, your grandma’s house way outside of town, they would say it was in Karaganda.

When you live in a city that is considered to be the literal middle of nowhere, there comes a specific quality about it. Or maybe when you live in a city with such bad air quality from mines and factories, you become depressed yourself. The air is thick with pollution. So thick you can taste it. The snow is black. The landscape dismal. The loneliness of the remoteness settles in a bit deeper here, to the bone nearly.

You taste it when you step outside. You taste it in the water. You take it in deep as you sleep. I think if I were to cry here, my tears would be black. I bought toothpaste and it was black. I am sure it is just as black inside these thin walls of houses close to the factories as it is outside of them. The inside walls weep the same black sludge that the fallen snow quickly turns to. The literal middle of nowhere, and a black sky to match the black name.

It’s lonely to be so remote. Even in a city of a half million. There seemed to be extra people sitting alone on benches, people perfectly spaced far apart so they would walk alone. I checked into the hostel I was staying at and was given a key. The workers left to never be seen again and I was the only guest for days. I suspected weeks. I walked down empty streets, went to an empty mega super market, and returned to my temporary empty home to make Thanksgiving dinner.”

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Black toothpaste

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The train from Astana to Karaganda

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Pipes outside an apartment complex outside of town

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A girl traveling from her new home of Astana to see her parents in Karaganda.

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An empty compartment on the train

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A women walking in the city center of Karaganda, still laced with Soviet murals

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Wild dogs outside the coal factories skirting around Karaganda.

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A boy and his sled.

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The black skies of Karaganda. No world pollution index has listings for anywhere in Kazakhstan.

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Morning light in my empty hostel.

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Kitchen interior

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A man burning trash in a new suburban housing development.

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A snowy road leaving Karaganda

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An elderly man waiting for the bus

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Massive Kazakh flagpole

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Furthest building to the left, four floors up is where I stayed.

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Recent Work for Kinfolk and Sundance Mountain Resort: Portland Natural Light Interior Photographer Christine Armbruster

Sometimes I am good at showing recent work, but other times I am better at showing personal work. This past photoshoot for Kinfolk Magazine felt like a perfect combination of the two. It was a welcomed marriage of personal and commercial work. A great example of how I blend my documentary and commercial styles. The day after I came home from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, I was asked to go to Sundance Mountain Resort for a photoshoot. Never before had I spent so much time doing personal work and then immediately jumped into a commercial shoot. Especially a commercial shoot with as much freedom as this one had. It felt like a continuation of the light and dark study that I had been exploring for the previous month of travel, all using natural light to photograph the food and interiors of the resort. Luckily, the client wanted the exact mood I had been focusing on every day for the pervious month and it felt like the perfect collaboration.

To see the entire story, you can check out the article on Kinfolk. Or to see more collaborative work I do, you can visit my website. Especially this past food and travel project with the Waldorf Astoria and James Beard Foundation.

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Christine Armbruster is a Portland natural light interior photographer. She makes documentary images for commercial clients focusing within the food and restaurants. She works both on location and in the studio to create strong imagery to tell the stories of the places she photographs. To see more of her work and how she blends her documentary style with commercial clients, please visit her website.
Posted in: commercial, food, interiors, lifestyle, travel, utah by Christine No Comments

Horseback Riding in Mongolia: Oregon Editorial Photographer

This past summer I got to go on an incredible journey– horseback riding in Mongolia. We began the journey at the base camp of Horse Trails Mongolia. Off the airplane and straight into a ger. In fact, we got off the plane in the tiny Ulaanbaatar airport, and didn’t see any sign of civilization for nearly a week after that. A quick mini-market stop on our way to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, and that was about it. It was just us and our horses. We entered the park and loaded up our horses for the trek.

Horseback riding through the Mongolian steppe was one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done. I know that is a bold statement. But I haver never had such freedom on a horse before. I’m not even crazy about horses. It was incredible though to be given this wild animal and the ability to go wherever we wanted. Fast, slow, up a hill, through a river, whatever.

There was endless landscape. Every corner we turned, there were endless valleys, endless mountains. Climbing to a peak, you look down into six different valleys to choose from.

The horses were a bit wild. A bit like the American Mustang. Kind of tamed, but also they very much had a mind of their own. It made the riding a bit dicey at times, but overall it was enjoyable. Wooden saddle and all.

We stated in gers (Mongolian yurts), we camped in tents. Food was eaten by a river or with a nomadic family. It wasn’t always pretty, it wasn’t always comfortable. But somehow, it reminded me of why I love traveling. Something about the remoteness, the roughness, the bizarreness of the place. It was a catalyst for Kazakhstan. A big reason why I felt the need to travel alone this winter. I am excited to go back to Mongolia this summer and see how it makes me feel the second time around.


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All images taken on Kodak Portra 160 or Kodak Ektar 100.

Christine Armbruster is an Utah editorial photographer. She travels to world creating commercial images for clients.

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