EWW: Russ,I am curious to know, if someone were asked to make a comment about your work as a whole, what do you think they would say?
Russ: They would say that the images take them to unexpected places and surprise them both with content and composition.
EWW: What would be your comments about your work, as a whole?
Russ: Two things motivate me when shooting. One is a desire to tell a story and share an experience. I love finding the unusual and bringing it home to show to others.
The other is to find a composition that is perhaps surprising, bold, graphic, and visually arresting, which is accomplished both by looking hard and long at something, and by the choice of optics. I hope to see something hidden in the mundane and surprise and delight my audience.
EWW: If I were to walk into an exhibition which included works of yours, would I immediately know which ones were yours and why?
Russ: I’d like to think so, but that may be presumptuous. Hopefully the viewer is drawn to an image forcefully, by a “wow” factor that grabs his interest even from a distance. Perhaps it’s bold and graphic, or mysterious, or exotic. By graphic I mean visually simple and strong, by mysterious I mean patterns or details which are hard to define at first, and by exotic I refer to the kinds of images which drew me to National Geographic as a kid, humanity in it’s most unfamiliar guise.
EWW: Besides collectors,you mention that your audience is visually astute such as interior designers, architects, and art consultants. What do you experience as the major issues they use in terms of acquiring your work?
Russ: The image in that case has to perform a function, answer a need, so, while the professional has to like it in the first place, it may have to be a certain size or shape or color to satisfy a customer. I’ve been asked to make sure an image would cover a circuit breaker box in a kid’s bedroom! While it’s not the most flattering placement or constraint, it is commerce, and they still did choose my image over thousands of others, so why not be pleased.
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EWW: Are there any themes that consistently run from one work to the other, in your body of work, i.e. colors, movement, style, etc.?
Russ: I am passionate about composition. It’s got to work and the eye has to be comfortable moving about the frame. And an image must be interesting, either through content or artistic elements (texture, foreshortening, tension, etc.). And of course it has to be technically spot on. Those are the elements that cross my work, but it could be as varied as a close up of a crushed coke can or a fighter jet or a portrait of a Bedouin. I actually would never want to be pigeon holed.
EWW: Russ, I would be interested in knowing from you, what do you see as the major challenges today for photographers in terms of marketing and promotion?
Russ: The sheer number of images, good images, is daunting, and models such as royalty free cheapen the value of our work. The demise of print, and the lowering of the bar with a lot of digital mediocrity, good enough for a website, also erode what was once a more robust assignment landscape.
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EWW: How are you dealing with these challenges?
Russ: I shoot what motivates me, and hope to find those who appreciate it and value the caliber of my work. The cyber platforms allow a broad reach, but also democratize the access by thousands of other photographers.
EWW: Do you use social media platforms to market and promote your work? If you do, which social media platform seems to work the best for you?
Russ: I do, but not as aggressively as many others. Perhaps I’m a bit too old to get dewey eyed about tweeting, and I can’t imagine spending hours glued to Facebook, but I will say that when I do engage, particularly on FB, I’m surprised at the reach and response. I guess there’s a lesson in that.
Sunday Hush, Venice
EWW: Russ, do you have any final thoughts about you and your work that you think would be important for others to know about?
Russ: It’s been said so many times that it’s almost a cliché, but I shoot what excites me. When things are happening right, and I forget I’m cold or hungry or whatever, and I’m getting visual treasures, I feel exactly like the kid who just snagged a home run ball hit deep into the stands. I can’t imagine not having gotten that image, and I can’t wait to see it again and confirm my excitement. So, despite the plethora of shooters, I’d like to think that I would dig deep and provide my client with a surprise, a vision that only I would have found. I try to notice everything. And I milk it till there is no more to see, or it’s too dark. I recently did a real estate shoot in Chicago, and worked over a set of towers for about ten hours through all kinds of light. I ended up with almost ten images that I feel were kickers. That’s fun.