VISUAL Q&A: Taylor Russ

VISUAL Q&A: Taylor Russ

Taylor Russ is an LA-based cinematographer and photographer. His work fringes the edge of darkly comical, with a taste for the bizarre. He has worked with clients such as Gatorade, Disney, and Netflix. Taylor loves mystery, veiled tales, leaves a viewer with more questions than answers, and tries to find every opportunity to build in a bit of curiosity.

We asked Taylor questions, questions that could only be answered with images…

Who are you?

I'm a cinematographer mainly, working in commercials, films, and a little bit of something in between. Working in the film industry and learning to light with that perspective, I try to seek out and create visual drama while also taking into account the unique properties of still photography versus cinematography. I picked up a little single-lens digital camera (X100F) two years ago after formerly convincing myself I just wasn't cut out for photography due to many film photography failures/mediocrity. My love was revived with this newfound, very small, and versatile little camera. I no longer had to be so precious about what I was shooting and felt free to experiment with every subject and approach I could conjure. Now I'm on a bigger system (X-T3), but the process and search for beautiful lighting and subjects that convey a feeling in a single frame is an endless draw.

Why photography?

Photography speaks to me in similar ways that cinematography does. I constantly pursue images that tell a story, but I also feel that story extends before and after the frame. The implication is something I adore in still photography. The works of Philip-Lorca diCorcia, in particular, speak to me in this vein - we feel the moment of the photo, but we also feel a bigger story, one that is shrouded in stillness, one with more questions than answers. When you walk by a bizarre scene in a city: you see only the present story but wonder about what led there and what will happen next. I love that. It feels like the absurdity of life, but there's still a feeling of connection to the subjects. I grew up with a big Norman Rockwell book, so I won't say that didn't shape my tastes as well.

What is your trademark photographic style?

At this point, it's bold, shapeful shadows with rich colors, in general terms. I enjoy imagery with staunch visual impact. I shoot a lot of architecture and interesting still lifes on the street, but I adore shooting with actual people.

What truly inspires you?

I'm inspired by the vast diversity of environments and corresponding lifestyles throughout the globe. Little things in the right contexts can leave a big impact. I'm also inspired by the amorphous nature of human emotion and how unexpressed feeling often turns into physical expression. The subtle constants and universal connection in the expression of self are what I'm always trying to capture.

Where do you go when you close your eyes?

I find myself somewhere quiet, sunny, and with a wealth of animal and plant life. It's the classic fantasy of the island retreat or the wooded cabin. When I close my eyes, I'm in a place with room for silence and the expenditure of time without guilt.

Where is home for you?

This probably isn't asking the philosophical question I'm thinking, but I live in LA currently. Home is a tough one for me, as I don't feel connection to the places I grew up (Delaware, Michigan, and Chicago) as a "home". It doesn't feel like somewhere I would want to go back to as a safe haven. I'm constantly in pursuit of home. Home is being with the people I love.

How would you describe your lifestyle?

I like my slow time and my rest, so I make a lot of time there. I indulge in the myriad technological distractions around me while simultaneously longing for something simpler. I love my reflection time but still find my way into social circles of weirdos that routinely expand my thinking, and for that, I am grateful. The part of my life that isn't resting is working on sets, which can be absurdly taxing on one's body and mind. So, a bit of yin and yang there.

What makes a great shot?

A great shot makes you pause. A great shot will grab your attention and stop the endless scroll or mindless intake, reminding you of something you can't place until you look into it deeper. Or maybe it's just a feeling that resonates with you; even if you don't know the story of the image, you relate to the expression of feeling. I love the human element and try to find it everywhere I go.

How do you view the world?

I view the world through a sociopolitical lens these days, unfortunately becoming estranged from the bright-eyed and optimistic wonder of my younger self. I view the world as a beautiful place made ugly by a few powers, but the majority is populated by the good. My optimism and my nihilism fight a bit, but I maintain that the majority of humans are beautiful, wonderful people that are just trying to make up a path for themselves.

Check out Taylors' Instagram & Website