ELENA POLSHAKOV, Photographer and Owner of Instagram Account @ Pictures_of_NewYork


Hometown: Ukraine
Years lived in the city: 21
Photographer and Owner of Instagram Account @Pictures_Of_NewYork

I first discovered Elena's Instagram account a few years ago when I was in Texas wanting to move to New York. Even back in college I followed a few NYC photographer accounts and hers was a classic. Her Instagram account never failed to inspire me with its photos of the city.

Elena posts every single day no matter what and her pictures of New York showcase the city in the most elegant and beautiful light. It's great for people seeking photography inspiration (especially regarding to city infrastructure and architecture) and a nice planning tool for tourists' first trips to NYC. We did our interview via Instagram since Elena is a busy lady and I was so excited to learn more about her and what inspired her to create her page.

STEPH: What brought you to New York and when did you first move here?

ELENA: It’s not such an easy question, the first part of it. We (I, my husband and our daughter) came to America from Ukraine in the summer of 1996, without knowing English or even any idea of what to expect in America, but came with a very high hope for a better life.

STEPH: Wow and then you moved to New York! Having been here a while now and with an entire Instagram page dedicated to NYC, what do you like about the city?

ELENA: I have to say that my favorite thing about this city are the people and its diversity. I have always been saying that it is the people that make the city so fabulous, not the other way around. Everyone is incredibly supportive and accepting - I don’t think you can find another place where no one is judged.

STEPH: What was your first memory here?

ELENA: When we arrived in New York, we stayed in Brooklyn at first. After a few days we had to go into Manhattan to get some paperwork done and we got out of the subway at the Rector Street station. Walking out of the station, the first thing I saw were the Twin Towers. I was absolutely blown away and will never forget that impression and how in awe I was.

STEPH: That's awe-striking that the Twin Towers played a role in your first memory of the city. What inspired you to start your Instagram photography account?

ELENA: My best girlfriend moved out of this country and to fill the void I started to walk and take pictures with my iPhone and explore New York. I started to post pictures and that was the beginning.

STEPH: What has this Instagram account helped you gain in your life?

ELENA: Because of this account, I've fallen in love with New York on a different level. I started walking everywhere; I bought a lot of books about New York and learned so much about the city! It became my passion and my therapy. I’ve also met many great talented people and made new friends because of it.


STEPH: For most people, the beginning of anything is always the hardest. How did you get discovered on Instagram and gain followers? Do you have any tips for growing a following?

ELENA: I don’t think I was “discovered”. I didn’t wake up one morning with a big following. I started this page a little over 3 years ago and it’s been growing slowly, but steadily from the beginning. I have never focused on how many followers I have at the moment - that’s never been my goal. My goal is to enjoy it - enjoy taking pictures and enjoy the interaction with people. From my experience, the most important tip for anyone who wants their account to grow is to be consistent. Never post too many posts at once and don’t disappear for a long time either. I have been posting every morning and every evening, even if I travel or have any emergencies.

STEPH: Do you have a plan for where you want to take this Instagram account?

ELENA: Absolutely not. I have no plans for this as this account is my hobby - nothing more than that.

STEPH: What supposed “failure” in your life actually paved the way for success later on?

ELENA: I don’t think I've had any failures in my life since it’s all a point of view. I believe that everything happens for a reason and we grow from those experiences. What some would call it as a failure I would call an experience.

STEPH: With a full-time job, how do you manage family, career, and hobbies, such as this Instagram page?

ELENA: Very simple - if there’s a wish, there’s a way. That’s the answer. When you start to hear excuses, then there’s no real wish or desire...That’s being said, I’ll admit that I don’t watch TV - I have no time.

STEPH: What equipment do you use to shoot photography and to edit your photos with?

ELENA: I use a Sony Alpha 6300 camera and an iPhone X for taking pictures. For editing, I use Lightroom, VSCO, and Instagram. 

STEPH: How did you get into photography in the first place?

ELENA: I always loved taking pictures and had an eye for it. Instagram allowed me to get into photography a lot more.

STEPH: How has New York changed your life? Do you see yourself staying here long-term?

ELENA: It changed my life as drastically as ever possible. I love New York deeply and passionately. I’ve seen this incredible city in good and bad. I witnessed 9/11 with my own eyes. I was in the city on that day and I saw everything happening in real life. That was one of the most heartbreaking and scary days of my life by far. To see how resilient New York was after the event made me incredibly proud. And I can’t see myself leaving this city, but hey, you never know.

STEPH: Random, but what’s the first thing you do in the morning?

ELENA: Ha, minus brushing my teeth and having my tea? I post a picture on Instagram!

STEPH: Favorite part of New York City to visit? Favorite part to capture photos of?

ELENA: I really love the Flatiron District and love taking pictures there. I also love the Empire State Building and love to include it in my shots. But I love all of New York, there’s actually no part I don’t like! I love Upper West Side, love Financial District - I better stop now because I’ll keep naming all neighborhoods! New York is absolutely magical!