We had the good fortune of connecting with Tom Brennecke and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Tom, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
Presumably, the question I asked myself was what can I add to the discourse (in my case of architecture & urbanism in post-soviet countries) that is not already there (on social media and elsewhere) or that I am missing? I have realized quickly that many Instagram pages or, generally speaking, existing magazines or publishers operated on a purely aesthetical level: Take a picture of that building in Moscow, post it, report it, reprint it. Instead of this bridging the gap between what post-soviet countries are and what the Western World thinks they are, it has rather participated to mystify these countries even more (e.g. Russia). I took this and concentrated more strongly on the story behind a building or a social phenomenon: Why does it look like it looks? Why do men use to hang out at their car garages on the weekends? Why are women driving trams but not buses in Tallinn? I concentrated on the broader picture instead of just going with the ‘nice images’.

The second important aspect is implicit in the way I write. Firstly, I ask a lot of questions to display the thought process I am applying when researching a topic. In the end, I am learning as well about the things I am interested in, as hopefully my readers do. Secondly, I try to explain everything and to add all sorts of detailed information that readers may ask themselves: How big is the city I am writing about? How high is the building? When was this building built and was its style fashionable at the time and if so, where is it coming from? Doing that, I am often running out of space to write on Instagram. Thirdly, I am using humor and storytelling to convey the thing that I am writing about to my readers, especially when the topic is not so easy, for example, building laws.

I hope the degree of detail in my information and the easy, simple and explanatory writing style help to put things into context and simply to enlighten aspects of the soviet or post-soviet culture, that may seem strange or unusual to a Western audience.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am most proud that I managed to follow my instincts when it comes to the choice of topics. As everyone knows, when building a platform or a product, the beginning can be difficult and considered overall, I am still at this stage. But I realized that only if I do it the way I want it, without being too much subject to the algorithms of social media or certain micro-trends, I will be able to keep going in the long run.

Generally speaking, bringing anything into existence, in my case a magazine, is not easy. It has never been my full-time job, so this means I am working on it in the evenings or weekends. Additionally, when printing the magazine, I cannot rely on any funding: Both, working hours and funding, are crucial elements that one has to manage well, but I will say, that having to do everything on my own and in my leisure time has put the overall project very close to my personality. So create a work environment that is fun, and you won’t struggle to devote your free time to it.

What I would like people to know, is that Instagram, for example, does not only have to be the platform for beautiful pictures. In can be a platform for discourses and exchanges of interests and knowledge, depending on what one creates on it. And even though one may be disappointed in the beginning by missing feedback or responses from others, to keep on going and doing is the only way. Don’t overthink it and see it as a process.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Have you ever heard of the Paris Syndrome? Visitors create high expectations of Paris that can never be met in reality, so that disappointment is left.

The only way for me – and therefore what I would always tell my visiting friends – to experience a city, or the genius loci, is to immerse oneself into it. And this does not work by doing as many things as possible, but rather, by what is called ‘performing home’ in a foreign place. Sit in a café for some hours, observe people. Go out and check out the nightlife, take the metro out of the city and see a suburb, spend some time in a library. Rather than trying on purpose to venture off the beaten path, it is more about creating a routine, not looking for the exciting all the time but rather for the beauty in the ordinary.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Worth shouting out to are two parties: For one, the Youtuber ‘Bald and Bankrupt’, especially in his early videos, has offered a take on the East, for example on Belarus, in a humorous and direct way, no one else did before. This encouraged me definitely more strongly follow my passion for this part of the world.

Secondly, the Berlin-based publisher Dom Publisher has shown me, what can be achieved when following a passion and a simple idea, in their case: Provide an inventory of the architecture in many post-soviet countries, that is based on research and field trips. Looking at the work of DOM Publishers, I also learned what is important and what perhaps is less important when talking about a building or city.

Website: www.prospektmag.xyz

Instagram: prospekt_mag

Twitter: prospekt_mag

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutSocal is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.