Though Russ has spent over the past eleven years traveling the world as the Senior Staff Photographer for Oakley Inc., his career behind the lens truly began when he moved from Alabama to the Southern California surf Mecca, San Clemente, at age eleven. He quickly developed a passion for surfing and, as ambitious groms will do, aspired to one-day make a career out of it. Well, surfing turned out to be a bit harder than Russ had anticipated- “ I sucked at surfing,” he recalls. Though he got pounded at the San Clemente Pier more often than not, his passion for surfing remained at high tide. One day, while flipping through a dog-eared copy of Surfing Magazine, it hit him; there was another path he could take to get paid to travel the world and surf the best waves: Become a surf photographer!
In 1995, as a motivated high-school student, Russ focused his energy on learning the technique behind traditional black-and-white photography. One problem: his school, St. Margaret’s Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano, didn’t offer any photography classes! Undeterred, Russ approached the chair of the fledging Visual Arts Department and expressed his desire to learn the basics. A unique independent-study program was tailored for Russ, but he and his faculty advisor had to look off-campus for proper facilities. Once they found a darkroom to rent in downtown San Juan Capistrano, Russ began snapping away with his trusty SLR. He hasn’t stopped since.
After college, Russ landed a job at Surfing Magazine, the same publication that fostered his early dream of becoming a professional photographer. There, Russ worked closely with Surfing’s longtime photo editor, the legendary Larry “Flame” Moore. Russ’ natural talent and energy impressed the veteran lens-man, so Flame took the ambitious young man under his wing; helped by Flame’s invaluable tutelage, Russ worked his way up from “scrub intern,” as he called it, all the way to Senior Staff Photographer. The two became very close during Russ’ mentorship, so much so that Flame considered him like a son. In 2004, just months before his untimely passing, Flame would bestow one last gift upon one of his last students- his dream job. Dino Andino, the Oakley surf manager at the time, had approached Flame in order to find a skilled photographer who could shoot pretty much anything, and Flame didn’t have to think twice about who should be recommended. Just one month after being interviewed, Russ joined the Oakley team as their staff photographer.
Oakley certainly has put Russ to work over the past several years. He’s spent his time shooting in places like Australia, Indonesia, Hawaii, Tahiti and Mexico- living the life he dreamt about as a kid. Back home, Oakley has put Russ’ skills to the test: he’s been assigned to shoot a mind-boggling array of adrenaline-fueled sports including NASCAR, motocross, BMX, mountain biking, skateboarding, snowboarding, beach volleyball and even PGA golf and Major League Baseball.