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Monday, November 16, 2009

Russell Tanoue: Celebrating 20 Years

Russell Tanoue: Celebrating 20 Years

Photo: Rosella Tomas

Notable fashion photographer Russell Tanoue is celebrating 20 years in the fashion and entertainment industry.  He has photographed thousands of people including Kelly Hu, Andy Baldwin, Daniel Dae Kim and Raiatea Helm.  To celebrate this milestone, he is throwing a huge party at Chai’s Island Bistro this Friday night.  Part of the proceeds from the event will benefit Hugs Hawaii, a nonprofit organization helping Hawaii’s seriously ill children and their families.

The VIP party will kick the night off Friday from 9 to 11 p.m. and include a pupu buffet by Chai’s, cocktail sampling, 20 photo shoot giveaways, entertainment and VIP entry to the after party at Pearl Ultralounge.  VIP tickets are still available at $25 per person, so reserve them now. 

After 11 p.m., the event will be open to the public with a $10 cover.  The night will proceed with an Allure swimsuit fashion show and DJ R.O.B. from The Palms in Las Vegas will be on the turntables till 2 a.m.  Visit for more info.


I caught up with Tanoue and had him answer a few questions about his career, his promotions and his most memorable moments.

Taken in the early 90s, here you see Tony Silva, now doing the Bruddahs, actress Kelly Hu and ADR Agency President, Ryan Brown.

Photo: Russell Tanoue

What would you be doing if you weren't a photographer? 

My life has been pretty blessed. Everything that falls on my plate ends up to flourish and for some reason becomes successful.  I remember being discovered in a crowd at this dance and asked to appear on a dance show at 14, which lead into winning dance contests all over. The experience of being on the national television show Dance Fever at 18 all came without any dance training. During this time, I use to photograph my dance friends, sisters and now actress Kelly Hu and became in demand 20 years ago.  I left my full time job at Fuji Film because it became too hectic to juggle both. 

It’s hard to say what I’d be doing since they all pretty much just fell on my plate. I’ve been a pageant coach, model and talent manager, event host, etc.  I don’t know, lots of people say I would have been a psychiatrist or should be one.

Out of all of the types of people that you have photographed, have any been the most fun or memorable?

Well, I was asked to be a guest photographer in San Francisco at this huge convention and they were Playboy Playmates, models, photographers, etc. I was hired to do a live photo shoot with 6 different models. I packed my things and went to San Francisco thinking this is going to be fun and fast. To my surprise, I didn’t know they had advertised my appearance since I was just recently featured on E Entertainment.  I arrived to over 10,000 people and after the first “pop” from the strobes, hundreds of spectators were taking photos while I was shooting. It was just insane!  So much so, I forgot to load the camera with film.  Wow that sounded funny…”film.”

Russell Tanoue with some guests at his July 2009 birthday party at Bonsai.

Photo: Courtesy of Russell Tanoue

I've been to a few of your promotions with Pearl and Bonsai and want to know how you got started in promoting?

I always celebrated my birthdays and used it to help charities or to create awareness which started way back when Aarons was called Nicholas, Nicholas.  That was my first VIP birthday event. 

The event traveled to different venues and landed at the Ocean Club where I was asked if I would host a monthly event, I accepted and the popular Piranha Room was born.
Currently I host Zensation happy hour, and Sapphire the Ultra Party at Bonsai Restaurant and Lounge and Beautiful at Pearl.

After 20 years of photographing, what are your proudest moments?

My proudest moments are those moments I discover from a client that I changed their life in some way or inspired them in another.  I am only as good as my last performance and without these moments, I don’t think I’d be where I am today.

What advice can you give to others?

I have to admit the hardest part of surviving 20 years was keeping it real and not becoming jaded.  I always tell people, never stand in the middle and always stand for what is right. 

Don’t focus just on your destination but, make sure you make a difference along the way because what goes up must come down and if you have these seeds planted along the way, you will have thousands to catch you when you fall.

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Posted on Monday, November 16, 2009 in Permalink

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About This Column

This Kamehameha Schools and UH graduate manages the website for HONOLULU. In her free time she researches Hawaiian genealogy, when she’s not out and about or taking care of her 5-year-old son. She blogs about Honolulu bars, Hawaii nightlife and entertainment.

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