As a token of thanks for your continued support, Asia Lounges celebrates its thousandth visit on the website by bringing you a series of 7 interviews. These Interviews will help you explore and understand the secret world of gemstone.
In today's edition we will follow Arjuna Irsutti, professional gemstone photographer at Arjuna Irsutti Photography, in order to help you, Loungers, understand this particular aspect of the trade! Hope you'll enjoy it as much as we did enjoy running through this topic.
AsiaLounges: Hi Arjuna, thank you for agreeing to answer our questions today. Let us start by learning a bit more about who you are. Tell us more about you, who is Arjuna Irsutti?
Arjuna Irsutti: I'm a 28 years old Italian based in Bangkok, heart of the gem trade. I am a free spirit and I enjoy doing things in my own way. Eight years ago, I became partner and gem dealer of GILT, my family business. In 2011, I graduated as gemologist from I.G.I. Antwerp and a few years later I opened my own studio Arjuna Irsutti Photography.
AsiaLounges: How did you come to the world of photography and more specifically the world of Gemstone Photography?
Arjuna Irsutti: Truth be told I used not to like photography, at least not until I discovered the world of gemstones. I've always been someone that prefers to live life rather than record it. (Laughs). I first discovered gem photography and microphotography, like most gemologists, while studying gemology. Due to my debut at GILT, a ruby and sapphire specialist, I started my career as a gem photographer with a bang by shooting some of the most attractive stones our trade has to offer. At first, I was only taking pictures for GILT, aiming at increasing the online presence of the company as well as the general awareness of the company through advertising. Then, I got into new collaborations with friends, mentors and renowned gem professionals, my interest for this part of the gem world grew more and more, and soon I became passionate about gem photography. Today, the same people that initially supported me are a big part of my clientele; thanks to them and living in Bangkok, which is the best place to be when it comes to gemstones, I now have the opportunity to shoot different material all the time.
AsiaLounges: In your opinion, what makes a good shot? How does it differ from a regular or poor shot? Are there any shots that you could show us that you are particularly proud of and others that would exemplify a poorer shot perhaps?
Arjuna Irsutti: There are two things that mostly differentiate a good shot from a poor one.
First thing first, we are working with relatively small objects therefore, having the whole object in focus is paramount. You see a lot of shots where only the table (R.N. the part of the gem that is facing up when mounted in a piece of jewelry) is in focus while the rest of the gem is relatively, or sometimes even completely, blurry. Note that you can also find the opposite. That is to say, the shot being focused on a facet of the gem only. This is, in my opinion, unacceptable. It just doesn't do justice to the beauty of the gem for it hides the little imperfections that actually makes each gem special.
Arjuna at work in his studio at his debut.
The inherent characteristics of the gemstone must be respected. As such, it is important that the "luster" of the gem, its shininess if you wish, comes out in the shot. While part of this process is given by the natural features of the gem itself (R.N. Clarity of the crystal and the cut of the gem among other things), contrasting the gem with the proper background and using the right amount of light are indeed critical and yet so often forgotten or overseen by photographers.
A good way to make you understand what I mean is to show you these two shots of the same stone that I took within a year from each other using different techniques and lights. In the first one (A), taken in my early days as photographer, the color of the gem looks saturated, that is more intense and artificial than it really should. The wrong lighting causes also some white facets on the gem and it is not completely in focus.
On the last shot (B) however, proper light and background have been used. The stone looks alive and well, it is fully in focus, it shines as it is supposed to and most important of all, the color of the gem is more realistically represented than it was in the earlier shot.
AsiaLounges: How do you explain your success? What makes you, as a gem photographer different than any other? Why do people trust you and your work more than other, potentially cheaper, photographers?
Arjuna Irsutti: I still think that my success is at its early stages, things are going great so far but the potential to improve my skills and grow on this path is still huge. I strongly believe that my peculiar approach to the trade is a key success factor. Unlike many of my competitor, I am not only a photographer. I am a gemologist, a gem trader and a gem photographer. My clients know that and know that I will shoot their gems the way I would shoot mine. I apply the critical eye of a gemologist as well as that of a trader to the shot.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to embezzle the gem in the pictures, on the contrary. I strive to bring the full beauty of these gems by showcasing their inclusions and other little imperfections. That is, in my opinion, and apparently that of Asia Lounges as well (laughs), what makes a gem special. That's what makes a gem one of Mother Nature's unique art piece and not yet another serialized item coming out of a factory.
AsiaLounges: In your opinion, who are the best gem photographers of the moment? What makes them better than the rest and how do you compare your work to theirs?
Arjuna Irsutti: Tough question you are asking! (laughs) There are many professional photographers around and, while I like them too, I'll try not give you the typical American names that everybody’s already well aware of. Instead, I'll talk about three accomplished and/or rising stars of the photography world whose works are of particular importance to me.
I'll start by the Russian Sergey Pryanechnikov, gem and jewelry photographer specialist. Truth be told there is not much to comment here. The man is a legend, his work is consistently stunning and is, in all honesty a daily source of inspiration for me. All I can say is, see and judge for yourself why I'm in love with his work! Sergey's work is monumental. Nothing more, nothing less!
From the mineral specimen standpoint, I am quite fond of the Japanese Yasu Okazaki. Again, impressive work, very precise and stunning material. His work is as sharp as a series of blades. One of the cool things with Yasu - San's work is that, asides from his shots, you discover new stuff as he is playing with cool and fairly uncommon material all the time. If you are into minerals and mineral specimens you should check his work, it's a real mine of information!
Last but not least is my friend Billie Hughes from Lotus Gemology. She is the rising star of inclusion photography, her skills in micro inclusion photography is second to none although she debuted in this field only two years ago. Her eye on the inner world of gemstones is unique, her way to combine art with science in her pictures is extraordinary! You may want to check Lotus Gemology's online free inclusion library Hyperion.
AsiaLounges: How do you see gem photography evolve in the near future? How do you see your studio, Arjuna Irsutti Photography, evolve in the near future?
Arjuna Irsutti: Gem photography is in constant evolution. Technologies, both hardware and software, are moving so fast that it is quite hard to tell where it will be in 5 years. In the future, I expect new levels of realism to be reached thanks to improvements to the camera and lens technology. My wish would be that, in this way, the whole photo process would become smoother and faster so to allow me to enjoy taking more photo shoots every day. All in all, I intend to keep on growing with my art and my passion without ever losing focus on either the trading nor photographic side of my business.
AsiaLounges: Do you have any advice to give to starting photographer? Planning on taking apprentices on at some point?
Arjuna Irsutti: On the advice side of things, I can only say be patient, study and practice a lot! Photography is an art. None of us arrived where we are in a day. Just keep at it, and learn through trials and errors. Be critical of your work and never give up.
For the apprentice, I don't think I'm ready to have one yet. Being a self-taught photographer, I am still focused on improving my skills every day. At the moment I think than my knowledge isn’t enough to teach someone, but for the future, who knows? I may well decide to have an apprentice. Besides, I'm happy to have my friends and colleagues around to accompany me every steps of the way.
Here are some complementary shots from Arjuna:
Thank you very much Arjuna for answering our questions today, we know that our readers are appreciative of your time and answers. I am convinced that after this interview the Loungers will understand why we, at Asia Lounges, make exclusive use of your shots for our products!
Next Interview will be with Lotus Gemoology's Billie Hughes about the Lab work and why they are so important. Followed shortly after by a second one on the topic of Inclusion Photography!
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See you soon in the Lounges!