“Impressive perspectives, geometries, frozen tones and the silence.” - Photographing abandoned structures with Stefano Perego.
The former Innocenti factory. Milan, Italy.

To begin, can you tell us a little about yourself? What is your first memory with a camera.

In winter 2006 I noticed a huge abandoned factory in an industrial area not far from the place where I lived. I felt the need to go inside. I was curious to discover what the interior looked like.

Once inside, I saw an incredible scenery: empty spaces and huge columns that made the building look like a steel cathedral with impressive perspectives and geometries. The frozen tones and the silence were interrupted by the sound of falling drops coming from the melting snow that created water surfaces with mesmerizing reflections. 

I felt something that was completely new to me (now I know, it was inspiration).

In that moment I decided to buy my first camera and to go back to that place to capture that sensation and keep them with me forever.
This was the beginning of my career as a photographer. 

“Impressive perspectives, geometries, frozen tones and the silence.” - Photographing abandoned structures with Stefano Perego.
The former Motel Miljevina, built in 1973 and abandoned since 1997. Miljevina, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Why did you specialize in architecture photography? Tell us a little more about your passion for photographing buildings and architectural structures.

After my first exploration with a camera I photographed a consistent number of abandoned buildings of different kinds, in Italy and then in the rest of Europe.

In the meantime I developed a strong interest towards the architectural styles of the second half of the 20th century.

During a trip to document abandoned structures in the countries that were part of Former Yugoslavia, I was amazed by the raw concrete buildings and monuments scattered all across the area. That was without a doubt the turning point in my photography.

“Impressive perspectives, geometries, frozen tones and the silence.” - Photographing abandoned structures with Stefano Perego.
Technical Library, by architect G. Bichiashvili, 1985. Tbilisi, Georgia.

What is it that particularly fascinates you about brutalist and modernist architectures?

First of all, their look. You can like them or not, but you can’t take your eyes off of their unconventional beauty and their powerful visual impact.

They tell a lot about an era and its artistic value and they show the idea of modernity of countries that , in some cases, don’t even exist anymore, like The Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.

They have futuristic shapes, they are located in the present context and their facades, which are often ruined and untouched, make them look like they’re stuck in the past. It’s a very interesting mix that I love to photograph as a whole.

And of course the materiality of raw concrete is unique

“Impressive perspectives, geometries, frozen tones and the silence.” - Photographing abandoned structures with Stefano Perego.
Cemetery extension, by architect Leonardo Ricci, 1984-1994. Jesi, Italy.

Are you only working for specific clients or do you also just like to go out there to kind of collect buildings you can share with fellow architecture enthusiasts on social media where you have quite an impressive number of followers?

I work with specific clients like architects, designers, artists and event planners, and I work on personal projects like the one you can see on my instagram page @stepegphotography, where I research and document interesting and often less known buildings and I share them with the people who follow me. Those pictures are often published on the most important architectural magazines, on maps and on books.

“Impressive perspectives, geometries, frozen tones and the silence.” - Photographing abandoned structures with Stefano Perego.
St. Hildegardis chapel, by architect Gottfried Böhm, 1962-1970. Düsseldorf, Germany.

What kind of equipment are you using and how do you prepare?

Now I use a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a lot of lenses. The most important one I use is a tilt-shift lens which is perfect for keeping the lines straight in architectural photography.

Then, it’s all a matter of planning.

Before traveling for my photography I spend a lot of time searching buildings on the web, on books and exploring large areas of countries using the satellite views.
Then I create a very detailed map with the coordinates of the structures and when it’s better to photograph them, checking the time of the day with the most suitable light using specific apps. This could take days or even weeks, but it really helps to do a great job on site and to see a huge amount of buildings in a small number of days.

“Impressive perspectives, geometries, frozen tones and the silence.” - Photographing abandoned structures with Stefano Perego.
Soviet war memorial and residential buildings. Chiatura, Georgia.

What are the biggest challenges for you when photographing buildings?

One of the biggest challenges is to try to avoid cars. In order to do this, I study the best time to visit a location. This may go right , but also incredibly wrong, sometimes I have to come back at another time and rethink the whole plan of my trip. 

The most frustrating situation is when I find the perfect frame, perfect light, and I’m there about to take a picture, aaaand an ugly car parks right in the middle of the scene. So I count up to ten, I just keep calm and wait to get the shot I wanted. 

“Impressive perspectives, geometries, frozen tones and the silence.” - Photographing abandoned structures with Stefano Perego.
The iron fountain originally built in the area of the Polytechnic University of Gyumri by Arthur Tarkhanyan, 1982. The fountain is still standing after a strong earthquake in 1988 destroyed a big part of the city. Gyumri, Armenia.

You obviously travel a lot of different places for your job. Which country have you liked the most and why?

It’s not possible to choose only one. Each country is a different and amazing experience that has developed my point of view and has enriched me as a photographer and as a human being.

My favorite areas of the world by now are the Caucasus, former Yugoslavia and Central Asia, for the big amount of interesting brutalist and modernist buildings and also for the unexpected adventures I lived there.

“Impressive perspectives, geometries, frozen tones and the silence.” - Photographing abandoned structures with Stefano Perego.
Welbeck Street Car Park, by architect Michael Blampied, 1968-1970. Demolished in 2019. London, United Kingdom.

Where haven’t you been yet but would like to go in the future to document the local architecture?

Brazil is certainly one of the countries I’m looking forward to photograph!

In your opinion, what is the role of architectural photography today?

Many roles, it depends on the situation, but I think the main role is to document.

As a document, photography enriches the viewer, it sensitizes and helps to understand a certain topic, giving you another point of view on something. 

Moreover photography is a very important way to save the memory of buildings which are slowly disappearing because of demolitions or because of renovations which destroy their original concept. 

“Impressive perspectives, geometries, frozen tones and the silence.” - Photographing abandoned structures with Stefano Perego.
Concrete bench, part of the Santuario dell'Amore Misericordioso complex, by architect Julio Lafuente, 1953-1974. Todi, Italy.

And finally, what would the ideal client be like? What would your dream assignment look like?

The Ideal client embraces my vision, trusts my knowledge and pays me in order to have visual material made with my specific style.

Stefano Perego is an architecture and interior design photographer.
And author of the book SOVIET ASIA.