TATIANA KARANJA: On Photography Origins & Evolving Style

“This is my own little personal world of photography and I’m more than excited to share it with you! I hope that I’m able to portray a little piece of the world as I see it through my eyes and lens.” ~ Tatiana Karanja

Photo by Katerina Farfara


You can’t help but feel like you know Tatiana Karanja. She may be a skilled photographer, but we like to think of her as a story teller. That, if this were a library brimming with books, she’d be the short-story collection that you just couldn’t put down. From people and places, to travel, food and fashion, she’s sharing a range of stories; as well as her own. And like many short stories, she highlights that there is beauty in being multifaceted and receptive to new journeys and encouragements. That, exploring different layers can feed the overall narration, producing a riveting account. We catch up with Tatiana to find out more about this young artist to watch:

[Image: © Tatiana Karanja]

Take us to the beginning of your career. When did you and who is your muse/inspiration?

I started when I was about 12, when I got my first camera mobile phone. I used to love taking photos of my sister. I would dress her up and put makeup the best I knew how, do some very drastic hairstyles and we would have ourselves a shoot in the house and garden. My Opa (Dutch for Grandfather) then gave me his old school Canon, which I used to take pictures at the National Park – I’ve always loved wildlife. I then enlisted the help of my sister to conduct my first “real” photoshoot.

Although, having done all of this, I honestly never considered photography to be a career I could follow as no one [at the time] ever talked about it as a viable profession in Kenya. Even when I went to University to study photography, I had so many people telling me I should have a backup. As if to insinuate that it would obviously fail and so I should get some “real” studies going on too, you know, just in case.

Portrait [Image: © Tatiana Karanja]

How did you settle on The Royal Academy of Art in Den Haag (The Hague), The Netherlands to study photography and how has it benefitted your journey?

School just wasn’t my thing, and that’s okay.  Everybody is different, and everybody has their strong suites. But as I was searching for what to do next with my life, I came across this online programme to Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. Since I LOVED taking pictures, I got my parents on board for this course and I was super excited just to have an adventure and go along for the ride; see where it would take me. It was a 3-month course after, which I got accepted to attend the university.  I spent a really great year there, a university full of creatives and positive energy, however the photography [course] was a bit too “radical” for me.

So, I looked for another alternative during my time there, and I found the perfect place – The Royal Academy of Art. This Uni was also filled with a lot of extremely creative souls, and I got to understand a lot of different types of photography and techniques. Because they involved us in so much of the learning process, it opened my eyes a lot to what the creative and photography industry is; which is knowledge I certainly did not have prior to this experience.

From her ‘Fashion Blogger’ collection [Image: © Tatiana Karanja]

On your website, you’ve listed quite a few types of genres under your portfolio. Why such an array?

Well to be honest, I love a little bit of everything. Although that information I put on my website was when I first got back to Kenya, I was just starting up and found a lot of opportunity within all those genres; which I also was very excited to be doing. Each type of photography requires different techniques and ways of thinking so in that respect I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and different ways of thinking. Deep in my heart, I’ve always known that travel, wildlife & lifestyle have been my favourite to shoot. They have always inspired me greatly. I love the outdoors, travelling, seeing different cultures and traditions. Now, I can happily say that my love for food has also made food photography one of my favourites as well.

From ‘Fashion’ collection [Image: © Tatiana Karanja]

But you’ve photographed in genres that require quite a bit of patience – wildlife, baby photos, pregnancy and bridal…how do you pull it off?

You’ve said it right there- Patience. That is key in achieving good quality photos. Not only that, but I think having a warm and friendly character helps a lot with making people feel comfortable. Which is what you really want in a personal photoshoot such as maternity shoot.

[Image: © Tatiana Karanja]

Do you think you’ll ever specialize in just one field?

Not really. I love doing different types of photography, it keeps me on my toes and keeps me learning new things. I have become stricter in the jobs I take, so to say, I won’t just do any job that comes my way. if there is something specific I know I’m not good at, I will hand that over to another photographer. Or maybe it’s a job that I’m not interested in, same applies there. Having said that, I do hope to be doing more travel, lifestyle & food photography.

Food Photography [Image: © Tatiana Karanja]

What would you say is your signature style?

I’m honestly still discovering this. My style keeps evolving and I think that’s evident in my work. I personally think that there’s nothing wrong with that, even though I know a lot of photographers and the photography world tell you to develop your own style. but how can I do that when I’m constantly being inspired by new things and I’m constantly trying out new things which I love?

Any personal projects?

I have not really had time to do any personal projects lately as I had a baby last year. Between jobs I’ve been getting and taking care of her full time, my time has been very limited. But having said that, I have been taking on jobs that I really enjoy and get to be creative with.

Distortion [Image: © Tatiana Karanja]

Favourite Tools of trade and why?

My eye – I would say your eye for photography is the most necessary and unique part of photography. Everyone has their own eye and sees things completely differently. Thus, they want to tell the story completely differently; which is the beautiful thing about it.

You seem to be very open about your personal life on your business portals, how has that impacted your trade? Pros and cons…

Quite honestly, I haven’t thought about this too much. perhaps that means there aren’t any cons as I haven’t received any backlash or negativity to note. I would say it would be a positive thing as I become more relatable to my clients and I let my work speak for itself!

[Image: © Tatiana Karanja]

How do you interpret Africa through your lens?

I’m still discovering Africa. Heck I’m still discovering Kenya myself! So, for now, I just want to show how beautiful and rich our country is. Rich in terms of culture, food, landscape, etc. I don’t want to pass along any judgments before I’ve fully formed my own!

Top three tips to anyone looking to branch into photography?

  1. Be true to yourself – Don’t try to do what everyone else is doing just because you think people will appreciate that more than what you are doing/making.
  2. You don’t need top equipment to be a good photographer- find your own eye and everything follows.
  3. Don’t be afraid to put yourself & your work out there. Share! Share! Share!

[Image: © Tatiana Karanja]

Who have you worked with so far that has had the most impact on you?

I think I would say NRT (Northern Rangelands Trust). I was able to travel around Northern Kenya and learn a lot about their projects there that are helping all the communities. I was able to meet people, hear stories, learn new things, and see a stunning part of Kenya. The trip really blew me away.

Who are you dying to work with?

I’m a natural light photographer, and I love it. But if there’s one person I would love to work with for their lighting techniques it would be Annie Leibovitz. Her work and attention to detail is flat out stunning!!

[Image: © Tatiana Karanja]

Tell us about your last project and why you chose it.

My last “bigger project”, as I have many shoots in a week such as family portraits, portraits, engagement shoots etc, was a shoot I did for ‘Be.Samara, a bag brand that I love. I really like the feel of their images. I had never shot bags before and with the inspiration shots she sent me, I knew we could put together a shoot a bit different than I’ve ever done before. It also involved travelling up and down the coast and we shot it over two days. It was fun, I got to explore, I have new & different work I’m proud of!

[Image: © Tatiana Karanja]

Dare we ask? Are you putting anymore on your plate for 2018?

I have a lot of things planned for this year, including a little African trip planned for later this year that I hope works out. I can’t give too much away but if it works out I will be able to show you my take on different African Countries. As a photographer it’s hard to know what jobs are coming up. Personally, I hope to be doing a lot more travelling within Kenya to capture those beautiful landscapes we have!



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