Spying on Moscow

Shoot with a drone, the series by Russian photographer Denis Esakov recounts Moscow’s buildings with the view that only architects have with their models: the Fifth Facade.

Denis Esakov, the Fifth Facade. Natalya Sats Musical Theatre, architect A.A. Velikanov et al, 1975–1979
A pedestrian in the city sees buildings in the context of the city landscape, with the facades as main attraction.
Architects and engineers are focused on construction and design, and urbanists consider individual buildings solely as elements of the city complex. Thus the angle of observation influences the reception of the objects: viewing from above, onto the “fifth facade” that barely anyone sees, opens completely different dimensions.
Denis Esakov’s Fifth Facade series is strong on rationalism, but also contains an emotional aspect. Balancing on the border between documentary and artistic architectural photography, Esakov manages to create works in the spirit of ‘straight photography’ which combine originality of format and maximal accuracy of depiction.


The increasingly popular technique of drone photography gives us the ability to fly over familiar buildings and to see them from above, exposing to us the fifth facade which is usually concealed from our eyes. Until recently, it was only architects themselves and their clients who had the opportunity to examine models of buildings and see them from all sides. In his Fifth Facade series Esakov does not try to pick out individual parts of a building; what interests him is the building as a whole. Rejecting purely artistic effects, decorativeness, and attempts to transform reality into something else, the photographer spent more than a year painstakingly working on his series in order to create a “volumetric portrait” of each building.  

The complete Fifth Facade project is a book: Spying on Moskow. A Winged Guide to Architecture published by DOM Publishers. Each building has been photographed with three pictures; two are taken from above and the third is taken from the perspective of an observer at ground-level.
Denis Esakov, the Fifth Facade. Aerobus Residential Complex, architect V.I. Plotkin et al, 2004-2007
Denis Esakov, the Fifth Facade. Aerobus Residential Complex, architect V.I. Plotkin et al, 2004-2007
Denis Esakov was born in Karakol in Kyrgyzstan in 1984, and lives in Moscow. His works have been published in leading architectural publications such as The Architectural Review (UK), MARK (NL), The Modernist (UK), ORIS (CR), The Calvert Project (UK) and exhibited at the V Moscow International Biennale for Young Art, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Shusev State Museum of Architecture, Moscow Manege, Gallery of Classical Photography.

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