Culture, Narratives, Photo, Travel

LDN to LA with Tahnaiya Russell: Adventures of an Afropean Artist Abroad (Part 4)

TE: As a professional, how do you balance unbridled creativity with the constraints of commerce?

TR: There are a lot of design jobs that offer enough creativity as long as it’s within their brand style guide. It’s easy for me to balance corporate design work with personal work because I get to take a break and step back, which I feel is a very important and healthy thing that artists/designers must do.

TE: Have there ever been any projects or clients you’ve turned down, be it on the grounds of ethics or aesthetics?

TR: I had turned down a client based on their attitude. I had a lady question me as to why I declined and I told her – in the nicest way possible – that I felt her energy was really negative and aggressive and I didn’t want to deal with that. She actually thanked me for being honest and started to wonder how other people had perceived her. I liked that we parted ways on good terms.

TE: You’re truly a renaissance woman excelling in multiple artistic disciplines but I’m particularly fond of your photography, so let’s focus on this area to provide some depth of field. In particular, many of your photos are captured from an elevated position surveying cityscapes. Please expand upon your enthusiasm for architecture.

TR: It’s more than just the architecture for me. I think about what’s going on in each building. A lot of these buildings are just boxes. What’s inside each box? It could range from students studying to human trafficking. Who knows? Sometimes these boxes look so depressing to me. I think of sweatshops, “illegal” hires, cheap labour. You know? Peoples’ lives. Survival. The mundane. There are days where these boxes look like they’re rotting and then there’s other days where they look like they’re made out of pastel coloured chalk. Sometimes they remind me of waffles. It’s amazing how the weather can change the appearance of these boxes whilst affecting peoples’ moods and thoughts. I like to capture the sky because for me it represents pure freedom. It makes me think of a world without money, technology, consumerism, toxicity etc.

© Tahnaiya Russell


TE: The retention of reflection on the aforementioned aerial shots is a signature Tahnaiya Russell style. I presume imperfection’s encroachment upon perfection is purposeful?

TR: I love memories and the reflections help strengthen the memories of that day. I love combining different environments too. Beautiful landscapes merged with an office environment. It’s like capturing a daydream.

TE: Whilst your creative career has blossomed in the States, are there any plans to return to the UK or even work in another city or country?

TR: Not right now. My dad keeps pushing me to see what opportunities Brazil and South Africa have but I’m happy in Los Angeles. I’d like to try London and see how I’d get on. I know I’d struggle with the weather and how crowded it has become. There’s a lot of space out here in LA. I’d miss the mountains too.

TE: Which segues neatly into: what’s your future vision as an artist? Do you wish to venture into any other creative fields?

TR: I’ve become really into naturopathic medicine and being healthy. I think about the environment a lot. I have thoughts of getting into those areas and doing something.

TE: Finally, I know you as Tahnaiya but your Instagram alter ego is “SunPips!” What’s the legend behind such a radiant pseudonym?

TR: I’m always thinking of nature, memories and life. I’m also always thinking of good band names and song titles. Sun Pips was one of them.


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