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John D. Russell ( is a professional photographer and educator based in Manhattan Beach, CA. He has traveled to over 30 countries on assignment and is internationally published. He has worked with some of the biggest companies and celebrities on the planet and is highly sought after for his style of photography which can be described as intuitive, artistic, and impactful. A few times a year John runs bespoke photography and philanthropic adventures ( to far-flung destinations around the globe including Africa, India, Asia, Europe, and South America. John is also the Founder of the South Bay Photography Group which caters to beginner and amateur photographers. His love for teaching and his passion for photography are often described as palpable and inspirational. He also donates a considerable amount of time to a handful of non-profits in the Greater Los Angeles area and around the globe.


LACP Interviews John D. Russell

LACP asks John D. Russell ten questions about his background, career in and beliefs about photography.

Los Angeles Center of Photography: What kind of photographer are you?

John D. Russell: I am a professional commercial and portrait photographer and I also run adventure photography workshops domestically and abroad.

LACP: How long have you been shooting?

JDR: I started shooting in 1992 learning to process black and white film and learning the fundamentals of composition, lighting, and perspective in high school. I continue to learn each day on my own through reading, workshops, teaching, and most importantly shooting.

LACP: Where did you get your training?

JDR: Aside from my high school darkroom training, I am primarily self-taught. Early in my career, I served as an apprentice for an established photographer for one year pro bono. To this day, I invest a large amount of time with continuing education and am always eager to learn more about this amazing art form.

LACP: When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?

JDR: I lost my only parent and only remaining immediate family member in 2005. As I was going through my mother’s belongings, I stumbled upon our family photos my mom had so diligently captured and archived throughout the years. I realized those images were all I had left aside from my memories of my family. It was at that moment I realized the importance and the power of photography. I knew immediately it would be my life’s work and I have never looked back.

LACP: Did you ever come close to giving up?

JDR: A few times. Being self-employed is challenging and comes with a certain level of risk and sacrifice. I now consider myself unemployable anyway. ?

LACP: Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?

JDR: Absolutely. I have a degree in accounting. I could have been a CPA and made way more money but my life as a professional photographer has been blessed. I have had some amazing opportunities and assignments. My career path has made me a better person and has opened my eyes considerably to the world around us. Self-employment is challenging and does require a lot of sacrifices early on but once established, life is the same in terms of standard of living as most if that’s a factor. I’ll never call it a job. It’s a passion and a lifestyle I truly love. For me that is priceless.

LACP: What have you gained by being a photographer?

JDR: Photography has given me so much. Travel, perspective, confidence, empathy, mindfulness – a lifestyle that allows me to help others, and the freedom to do what I want, when I want.

LACP: What classes do you teach at LACP?

JDR: I teach a class that’s near and dear to my heart titled, “Photography for Social Change.”

LACP: What do you love most about teaching?

JDR: Teaching photography has given me so much. It helps me to learn but more importantly, the impact it makes on the students is my “why.” To me, photography is a gift and being able to share that creative outlet with others can be life-changing. I believe we all want to make an impact in this world and photography is a wonderful tool and catalyst for change.

LACP: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?

JDR: Do it! It’s the best decision I’ve ever made. Understand, however, that photography is just a small part of the business. You’ll need to develop skills in finance, accounting, bookkeeping, sales, marketing, networking, customer service, web design, social media and more. You’ll wear many hats but you’ll learn and grow so much. It can be daunting for many artists to put their work out into the world for profit and criticism. Sharing our art is, in my opinion, our duty. By keeping it to ourselves we deprive people of seeing our vantage point, our inspiration, and our perspectives. Photography is a wonderful way to “see” the world and I highly encourage anyone who is passionate enough, to work hard and reach for your dreams. As the saying goes, “the only true failure is not trying.”