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Meet Tarii Smith of Focus On T Photography in Compton

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tarii Smith.

Tarii, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve been doing photography off and on since 2009. I’ve always been into some form of art whether it be drawing, writing music and singing or picture taking. Most people know me for singing but I didn’t take that seriously and kept working with people who were more concerned with their work so I moved on.

Photography was quickly becoming more than a hobby. Although in the beginning, I was too scared to ask people to take their photos due to being an introvert, candids were my thing. Eventually, with friends, it became regular to take pictures but it made me realize how much people trusted me enough to capture them. Fast forward to 2016, I bought a new DSLR camera and was determined to finally get back into what I always loved doing. I gave myself a goal of 2 years max to stick to one thing so I decided to start a blog to share my work since I had been perfecting my skills. It would later house my health journey. At the time, I wanted my work to revolve around everything Compton but I also wanted to seek other opportunities outside the city. There is so much talent outside of music in Compton and I still want the world to see our gems.

Putting myself and my work out there led to collaborating with some amazing creatives. I got the opportunity to do some bts (behind-the-scenes) work on a video shoot for R&B singer Jon B which was my first major project with an artist in 2019. That opened a lot of doors for me and I started doing documentary photography and put myself in some uncomfortable spaces that further pushed me to interact more. That showed as soon as I stepped foot on Crenshaw and Slauson for Nipsey Hussle’s procession. Those are still some of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken. Every month I join DJ @Rosegawd and photograph her themed costume parties which has created a safe space for people to express themselves through fashion. I look forward to it and doing so got me interested in event photography as well. I’m currently focusing on portraits and collaborating with other local creatives in Compton.

Has it been a smooth road?
We are going to some form of obstacles and we wouldn’t be our best selves if it weren’t for them. I’ve dealt with the usual heartbreak and dealing with depression but my biggest obstacle and challenge might be when I was diagnosed with IIH in March 2018. Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension is an invisible illness that causes the body to react to a false brain tumor. The body makes too much spinal fluid therefore causing pressure around the scull and the eyes. It also causes hearing loss, vision loss, and blindness making it is the most damaging effect on the optic nerves. I currently have swollen optic nerves so you can imagine how that makes me feel when I’m behind the camera. There’s a host of things going on with my body but being monitored by an ophthalmologist and neurologist helps deal with it.

The medicine sucks and there are days when I don’t feel like getting out of bed or doing everyday activities. But everyday is a new day to make yesterday better. I’m thankful for the days I get to wake up.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Focus On T Photography – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
As I said before, I’m focusing on portraits and collaborating with other creatives in my area. I do documentary and event photography. I’m most proud of myself for sticking to my plan. I’d normally stay to myself and move in silence but I’ll miss that opportunity if I do. I’m attending more events and actually networking with people who don’t have egos.

Now I may not be able to name drop celebrities or tell you how many concerts I’ve shot but I can tell you that I’m inspired by many things. That fuels me to continue perfecting my skills, showcasing and sharing the gems I’ve acquired with others along the way. I’ll forever be a student in this field and I’m not afraid of failing. Some people have the will and no skill or have the skills and no will. I have both, that’s what sets me apart.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
We aren’t afraid to show people our talent. We’re hungry and I think it shows. I love that now there are more opportunities and programs for the youth to explore.

I dislike the potholes lol… but seriously still having people scared to travel to Compton. They still have this negative image about the city but it’s not what it used to be.

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