Ai LIVE: John Russo Talks Career as a Celebrity Photographer
In this edition of Ai LIVE, host E. Vincent Martinez speaks with celebrity photographer John Russo about his experience shooting A-list stars for clients including Vogue, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, and the Gucci brand.
Russo also taught a special topics course, “Celebrity Photography” for The Art Institutes in the Fall of 2020. The course focused on his career and real-word experiences in the industry—showing students what it’s really like to be a celebrity photographer. He says that budding photographers need to understand the importance of knowing their clients. He’s been surprised to find that many don’t take the time to understand client needs and arrive at a shoot unprepared.
“You have to gear work toward the client; I have a portfolio of work geared toward the people who are going to hire me.” He also creates a storyboard for each shoot, to ensure that he (and everyone on his team) has a clearly defined path to the final product.
Russo mentions that he found his voice as a photographer by studying the work of Herb Ritts—images that he describes as “clean, beautiful, and not gimmicky.”
“Everything falls back on the photographer,” he says. “Going into a shoot, you need to be prepared and on your A-game. There is no room for error.” In the interview, Russo provides specific examples of the ways he’s handled shoots with everyone from Sophia Loren to an adult tiger. Those two shoots, he adds, turned out to be some of his career favorites.
“[The tiger shoot] turned out exactly the way we storyboarded it. [Storyboards] are your map to the treasure—and the treasures are the amazing final images created from the shoot.”
One of Russo’s newest projects is the magazine Gio, which he describes as his personal creative outlet. Russo takes all of the photos for the magazine, as well as does the interviews and writing.
Learn more about Russo’s work by viewing the AiLive interview and visiting his website: johnrussophoto.com
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