Inside this issue
Greg Russell is a landscape photographer and public land owner who lives in southern California. He is rooted in the West and enjoys wilderness and good beer. Follow his photography at his website or on social media.
In 2012 I paused by my local river and everything changed. I’ve moved away from what many expect photographs to be: my images deconstruct the literal and reimagine the subjective, reflecting the curiosity that water has inspired in my practice. Water has been my conduit: it has sharpened my vision, given me permission to experiment and continues to introduce me to new ways of seeing.
Sometimes we go forwards by going back... On re-reading Tim’s first interview with Kyle McDougall, I noticed that Kyle had suggested we interview his friend Greg Russell, so I thought I’d check him out. I was glad that I did; Greg is a passionate spokesman for public land and an advocate for wild places and writes eloquently about both. His images are rather nice too.
I picked this quote up from your blog, and I thought it might make a good place to start: “When I was a boy I didn’t want to be an astronaut; I wanted to be in the wilderness. I still do.” Can you tell readers a little about where you grew up, your interests and how your passion for wild places began? Did this affect your choice of studies or career?
I’m a native of Colorado, but I spent the majority of my childhood in northern New Mexico. My dad worked in the oil and gas industry in the San Juan Basin and I spent a lot of time in the field visiting well sites with him. I think my mom sent me with him in the summertime to get me out of the house. We’d spend a lot of time wandering the sandstone cliffs and benches looking for Ancestral Puebloan or Navajo pottery shards and sometimes would find ruins or rock art. This really sparked my interest in the indigenous cultures who lived in the area before us. We also spent a lot of time in the field fishing and hunting. Because of these outings, the smell of the piñon-juniper woodland and the feel of the sandstone under my shoes are things that are burned into my memory. Also, because I spent so much time outdoors, it was probably only natural for my imagination to wander to the animals that lived around my home and I often would pretend to be a wildlife biologist.
As I got more involved in Boy Scouts and the outdoors in general, we camped and backpacked all over the Four Corners Region. The areas around Cedar Mesa and what was briefly Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah were particular favourites of mine; those trips dovetailed well with my interest in indigenous cultures. In the end, though, I stuck with my childhood fantasies of becoming a biologist and I’m currently an associate professor of biology at a college in southern California.
When did you become interested in photography and what kind of images did you initially set out to make? How much time are you now able to devote to photography?
My dad enjoyed photography when I was growing up, but I took a serious interest when I began graduate school in 2002. One of my former professors is a proliferative photographer (he shoots birds primarily) but on a graduate student’s budget, I couldn’t afford a serious pursuit of wildlife photography myself. More than that though, I was consistently drawn back to the places I fell in love with as a kid and I preferred the meditative nature of landscape photography.
Between family, an academic career, and an old house that requires a lot of love, I don’t have as much time as I’d always like to devote to photography. Some months I don’t pull my camera out of its bag, but other times I am able to devote serious time to making images. My Wilderness Project has added a motivating reason to get out, but I would like to start shifting a little more attention back to photography in general over the next few years.