Interview by} John Delavina
Photographs by} John Russo
Q: You are truly a Chameleon of Photography, always changing, doing innovative things and finding interesting ways share your knowledge. Where did this passion come from?
A: Well, thank you for that. Oddly enough I worked at a clothing store called Chameleon when I was 19 years old! So random I know! I have always been a very driven guy. I was the teenager who was created a greeting card company out of my bedroom, in New Jersey, using my Black and White photographs as the subject. I studied the work of Herb Ritts and believed one day I would be photographing everyone he was photographing. I kept pushing myself to get better and better, to gain more knowledge as a photographer. I would also tell my parents that I was going to be a super successful photographer one day, that people would know my name. I worked my ass off to make my dreams come true. As cliche’ as it sounds, failure was never an option. As I became more successful in my career I decided I wanted to share my knowledge with the next generation of Photographers. To cut to the chase and give students real world learning, not learning from a text book that has nothing to do with my career.
Q: You taught a very successful course, based on your career, at the prestigious Brooks Institute, in Santa Barbara for many years. I understand you also have a Master’s Degree from Brooks as well. What gave you the impetus your own teaching platform without the backing of a major school?
A: I loved teaching at Brooks, it gave me incredible foundation that I continue to build upon thru my workshops and on line courses. It helped me create a learning platform that creates great photographers, not great assistants. Sadly I find that most schools create great assistants, that will never be my goal. I want to help create great working photographers who posses the knowledge to start shooting on their own right out of the gate. I have learned so much in my 25 years of shooting and having my own business. I created a curriculum that is representative of the current times without all of the useless filler courses that do absolutely nothing to further a career. At the end of the day, it’s not about where you went to school, it’s about your portfolio, your work ethic and your personality.
Q: You are so respected in the industry. The actors, their rep’s and studios love your work, but more so they love you as a person. You are kind, considerate and inclusive. You make people feel welcome on shoots. Trust me I have dealt with some diva photographers and that is the complete antithesis of you. It is obvious you love your career, how have you stayed so happy and not jaded in a very challenging industry? I know you will also stress the importance of being kind to your students.
A: OMG can I just have you say that louder and to more people (lol). Thank you for those kind words. I love every aspect of my career. From the publicists I have worked with since day one, to the actors and creative folks (Hair, Makeup and Styling). We are a family. We all want to see each other prosper. I truly believe that. I have always put good energy into my career and made it a rule that I would not sweat the small stuff. My career is fun and when it stops being fun I will move on to something else. No one and nothing is worth my stress. Oh and you can rest assured that I will stress the importance of kindness and inclusivity to my students.
Q: In a time when even the top photographers are not working, how will you motivate students to believe there is room for them to prosper and excel in the world of Photography?
A: This too shall pass. It is the perfect time to focus on creating the ground work for an incredible career. Eventually everything will come back and work will be even busier with more opportunities for everyone. When that time comes I want my students to be ready for the opening of the flood gates.
Q: What should students /photographers expect to get out of your 12 week course?
A: First and foremost they should expect honesty. The humor, knowledge and positivity are a give in. I am not the teacher who sugar coats things, if it’s not working, we focus on solutions. Each student is a reflection of my teaching, therefore I want to make sure they make me look great! Ha-Ha I am condensing 25 years of my career into a 12 week course. I will make sure my students are exposed to the most important and essential aspects of creating a lucrative, inspiring and enjoyable career.
Q: You work with the titan’s of the industry. The top of the top. Will any of these people be guest lecturers?
A: Yes, I will have people like yourself; talented, respected industry professionals who are making the decisions. I will call upon my industry friends to share their knowledge with the next generation of photographers. Being exposed to creatives at the highest level will further excite and motivate students to push harder to reach their goals.
Q: I think it’s an incredible opportunity you’re giving students. Having the access to learn and talk to someone of your caliber is really something that rarely happens. Will students get one-on-one time with you?
A: Yes, of course. If a student if having trouble or needs some extra attention, I will have certain in-office hours each week for on line meetings and calls to address their issues.
Q: I love that are teaching a course on your Hotel and Resort work. Will you apply a lot of the same teaching principles from your celebrity course to that course?
A: Absolutely, there are many similarities to both genre’s, but Hotels and Resorts have their own unique challenges that differ from the world of celebrity. You are dealing with a different style of shooting, marketing and rights and usage. I love this aspect of my career. Knowing that I am going to a five star resort for 14 days to create images to sell their property makes me very happy! It is such an incredible career choice for an aspiring photographer.
Q: Will there be any other courses you will be adding?
A: Yes, we will add a Fashion course and a Fine Art Nude course. I am crazy excited about both!
Classes start January 5th for Celebrity and January 7th for Hotel and Resort.
to learn more and sign up for John’s classes visit http://johnrussoworkshops.com