Russell Levin, born and raised in California, became involved in photography at a very early age. Learning photography from his father, he developed and printed his first roll of film at the age of ten. His education was furthered when at the age of 14 he spent a year in Mexico with his father. His father was a guest teacher at the Art Institute in San Miguel de Allende. Russell spent time photographing the bullfights, and quickly developed a passion for photographing people and action images. In high school Russell worked for the school newspaper/year book in addition to shooting sports for the local newspaper. Within a short time, Russell was receiving assignments from the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury. Before turning twenty, he had over 1000 photographs published in newspapers through out the state.
In 1972 Russell passed up a rare scholarship to California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. Instead he decided to continue working at a local camera store, eventually becoming the manager. During this time Russell had the privilege of meeting and getting to know local photographers such as Ansel Adams, Brett Weston, Steve Crouch, and Henry Gilpin. In 1982 Russell opened up his own camera store and was a major supplier to the local photographers. Unfortunately in 1990 his camera store burned to the ground. But within 10 days a make shift location was opened and Russell was in business again. The 1990s brought many changes for Russell. In 1992 he started working again for the Monterey Herald newspaper and in 1995 had the honor of being the only local photographer chosen (to be in the presidential motorcade) to photograph then President Clinton, during his visit to the Monterey area. In 1997 Russell started a small photo gallery in Monterey, just steps away from old his photo shop. What started out as a five-year plan to sell off his extensive photo collection, which he began back in 1974, turned into a full time profession. Rather than seeing his photo collection decrease, Russell actually ended up adding more images to his collection and began selling his own fine art photography with great success.
With regards to his own work, Russell learned some valuable lessons from photographers such as Brett Weston, Ryuijie, and Henry Gilpin. He learned to stick with what works for you. By using the same camera, film, and developers, you can concentrate on your subject and not have to worry so much about the technical side of photography. If you have seen Russell’s work you can attest to the consistency of his work and his mastery over his materials.
Though influenced by the work of Ruth Bernhard and Jock Sturges, it is the simple nude form of Edward and Brett Weston that are imbedded in Russell’s mind. In the future he sees his work moving toward the style and feel of Helmut Newton’s nudes. This is where his work was headed until other factors forced him to work more in the studio. Even though he enjoys the controlled environment that the studio provides, he is anxious to continue his work with the environmental nude, which was his first love.
Wherever his future vision takes him, Russell will continue to draw on his past, which includes over 30 years in photography and countless hours discussing photography with photographers such as his personal favorite, Steve Crouch, and contemporary photographers such as Ryuijie and Martha Casanave. Those of us, who have enjoyed and collected Russell’s work in the past, look forward to seeing what direction his work takes in the future.