About Russell

Collage-RD-PhotographyIt’s in my blood.  I’ve spent years traveling and living overseas.  “Two households, both alike in dignity.”  I am as at home in a country I’ve never been before, without English speakers, as I am in my California home.  As I journey into my spirituality, I view these trips as 40 days in the desert.  Before I go, I know I will be transformed by the journey.  I won’t come home as the same person that left.  I have been gifted many spiritual pearls by people in the oddest places.

I normally keep my camera tucked away.  When hear myself say, “Oh, my God!”, I take my camera out and take a photo of God’s image before me.  Whether the image is of a face, a raptor in flight, a sunset, or even a bug, I feel like I’m God’s personal photographer taking a photo of Grace.   If in seeing these photos, you find yourself saying “Oh, my God!” you will be seeing of what I saw.  So ENJOY!!!

Then there are times when I say, “Oh, my god.”  I will not take photos of poverty, disease or suffering for the sake of shock value.  Yes, I’ve taken pictures of people that others may judge as poor, but I say look again.  Look into their eyes and you will see a richness of spirit that many people in the West have never known.  I don’t travel to visit places. I travel to spend time with my Creator; to leave my culture and enculturate myself in another’s culture.

As I traveled and spent time in cultures other than my own, I recalled the words of a Rimpoche I met in Lhasa. I had told him I was confused by what I was seeing, that the Buddha had never written about piling rocks on mountain passes or spinning prayer wheels. He answered, “What you are seeing is Tibet. Tibet is older than Buddhism. Never look for Buddhism outside yourself.” The Truth is within.

Having traveled for a fifth of my life, I no longer identify my self solely by my culture or my ethnicity.  Being an American is something I experience, but it doesn’t define who I am.  I am more than a human being, I am Spirit being human in, as, and through me.  I have learned to travel without judgments, knowing that no culture can monopolize beauty or Truth.  I used to judge others through my cultural lens and realized I was minimizing myself.  I’m not there to put them down or make them less or greater than.  I my judgment, the only thing I accomplish was to separate myself from them.  The only thing I got was the exit sign, as I expelled myself from the Garden.  When I travel now, it feels like floating, observing and appreciating what is, as opposed to how I want or expect something or someone to be.  It’s a great way to live.  I’m learning how to bring that home and incorporate it into my every day life, both home and abroad.  Being is from the verb “to be.” A human being in actuality is a verb, the action of being human.

Being 6’8” is a gift.  I am considered a giant in most places I travel.  I tower over people.  Many times I see a rectangle in my mind’s eye around someone and know that I’m supposed to photograph this person.  I walk over to them and stand right next to them.  This gets the crowd going.  People start to laugh and come over to stand next to me.  They measure themselves for comparison.  Humor always opens the door.  Usually people have fear of a large person, but they know I’m safe by just my standing in silence and smiling.  I’ll start talking to them in English.  They’ll answer in their language, which sounds amazing to me, as English must sound to them.   I’ve developed my own gesturing language and when the time is right, I will ask to take a photograph.  Even in places where it is customary to pay for taking someone’s picture, we go beyond custom and create a safe bond.  If they want money I don’t take my camera out.  I’m not trying to buy their image.  What I want you to see is the gift they want to present to us by allowing me to photograph them.  I allow the photo to be.  I don’t manipulate or pose them.  I allow them to offer me whatever they want.  I see the rectangle and know the photo has already been taken long before I click the shutter.  I am honored to receive the opportunity to take photos that are offered to me as a gift.

I have not set up this website as a way to earn money.  It seemed the best way for me to get these photos that were gifted to me, to you.  If you choose to purchase, the sales of these photos will be donated to non profits, as my way of thanking all the people who have helped me along the way.

I wish to thank Greg Pouls, who first encouraged me to bring my photos to the world. I wish to thank Gabriel Constans for all the time and energy he put into trying to get me published. I wish to thank Reverend Deborah Johnson, Inner Light Ministries, for seeing and encouraging my gift of photography. And lastly, there are not enough words to thank my wife, Gan Neh Na, for allowing me to live my life and follow my passion. Most of my trips abroad were for one month. In 2012, I went on four trips. This was not easy on her, AND she has never said, “Don’t go.” I’ve always invited her to come, but she knows I travel hard.