(Editor’s Note: This interview with photographer Savannah Russell was conducted back in April 2012 by Tom Heckbert for the now-defunct website Eyestrane.com. It’s been republished at Idol Features courtesy of Tom.)
Born in Hong Kong to a family of Scottish and Indian descent, Savannah Russell was always attracted to the arts. 28 days after she was born, her parents relocated to Manila where she developed a passion for music. She pursued music until the age of 12 when she began experimenting with her parents cameras. Impressed with her photos her parents bought her a SLR camera. At only 17 years old, Savannah is already making her mark in the photography industry in Manila and recently completed a shoot with Lucas Raven who was also featured on Eyestrane.com. (Above photo, by and of Savannah, entitled “Animal.”)
EYESTRANE: Savannah, it is a pleasure to meet you. Can you tell us a little about your love for music?
SAVANNAH RUSSELL: I grew up to my dad’s taste in music which was David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Iggy Pop and so on, so I was always into the classic rock genre. It was about 13 I started getting into heavier music so Pantera, Metallica… Yes the heavy metal phase. From there I started playing gigs in different bars including hard rock so it was all a great experience. I wanted to pursue it as a carrier so I studied it in school, then leading about different types of music then increased my knowledge of it all. But after taking the course I then found out it would be difficult and quite hard to pursue a carrier due to the fact I couldn’t read notes and it is quit a crucial skill you need to have.
EYESTRANE: Did you take lessons when you were younger?
SAVANNAH: Actually yes, my mum would always insist us having music lessons, from voice to piano then to classical guitar. I then quit for a few months then started going back into guitar but instead of classical I started taking electric and I’ve been taking it for about 6 years now.
EYESTRANE: What first drew you to experiment with photography?
SAVANNAH: While growing up one of my best friends at the age of 14 she also was into photography. From there it looked like a fun thing to take up so I did experimenting with small digital cameras, I soon later found out that one other hobby of my dad was photography as well so he taught me a few things as well and he would make me try out his film cameras.
EYESTRANE: What was the subject matter of some of your earlier photos?
SAVANNAH: Well since I was just experimenting my main subjects were myself, my sister and I would shoot landscapes from time to time. But now I guess I’m starting to have a wider set of subjects for example more models such as Lucas Raven. I’ve also been experimenting with night time photography and different exposures.
EYESTRANE: You have said you love art that “tells a story.” Tell us the story behind one of your favorite photos.
SAVANNAH: To tell a story in a photo is something I always try to look for and something I still need to master. In this photo one of my friends are climbing up a hole at the Great Wall of China. What I was thinking while taking this shot was determination because, to be honest, it was a hard task to achieve. At the top of the tunnel was a site that is rarely seen, from the top you can see everything. So I took the shot at this angle to emphasize the ‘determination’ factor into the picture.
EYESTRANE: You recently did a shoot with Lucas Raven. What was this shoot for and what was the experience like for you?
SAVANNAH: This is not the first time I have had a shoot with Lucas Raven, I have had other shoots with him which including telling stories. In this case I believe this was for advertising some products for Gucci, Hermes, Rolex and some other brands. This shoot was quite fun due to the fact we had to work with animals such as a snake, two ponies and a tiger; it was different so it was a great experience.
EYESTRANE: Who are your influences and what artist and photographers do you admire?
SAVANNAH: One of my admirers, who I have clue on what her name is, is a photographer for concerts. After watching concert after concert after concert I have always noticed one girl who would stand just after the gate boundaries and before the stage. She would be there as a photographer for a company who obviously brought in the band. She would move around, changing lens after lens and angles after angle all the time its quite amazing. I would not mind at all if my life ended up like hers.
EYESTRANE: What equipment do you use?
SAVANNAH: Well I have a Canon 7D with a 50mm lens and a 35-75mm lens. As for lights I don’t have any professional equipment so I usually use natural light or just regular house lights but hopefully, I’m wishing, that I will get a studio soon.
EYESTRANE: Aside from photography what are your other interests/hobbies?
SAVANNAH: Actually I like to cloud watch; I watch clouds from an online website. Since I live in a tropical country we get a lot of hurricanes and storms so cloud watching is always fun because you get to experience the growth of a hurricane the experience the real thing itself.
EYESTRANE: Seeing that you have both a passion for music and also photography, do you hope to merge the two in the future?
SAVANNAH: My ultimate dream I guess would be to go on tour with a band and shoot photos for them or maybe even get hired for a concert company to shoot photos for different concerts. It would be like doing the two greatest things in the world at the same time.
EYESTRANE: What do you hope to study when you graduate from High School?
SAVANNAH: I will be going to Hong Kong to study graphic design to improve my skills on the computer so that I could try and make catalogues for magazines and so on.
EYESTRANE: Where can we find out more about you?
SAVANNAH: I guess anyone can contact me by e-mail or if you want to see more I have a Deviant Art page, although it is not regularly updated.