There is little that makes sense about my career path. I was a metal worker from Perth, Western Australia who now shoots high fashion magazine covers and has art exhibitions in Berlin, New York and other world capitals. I am a true fish-out-of-water.
Except for when it comes to shooting swimwear.
That genre speaks to every bit of who I am: my love for being by or in the ocean or sea, traveling to exotic destinations, and a job where footwear is definitely not required (and probably even foolish). Every element of that job is a part of my DNA, all I have to do is add in the amazing models.
In 1996 when I was asked to do my first-ever swim shoot with rising supermodels Tyra Banks and Eva Herzigova, I was slightly intimidated However, once I got the brief, everything made more sense than at any other time in my career. I am never as happy as when I have fine beach sand between my toes and water up to my waist or higher. And, of course, a camera in my hand. I have trouble containing my enthusiasm and acting like a grown-up. In fact, I have been told to not be quite as exuberantly cheerful in front of t he clients who hire me for swim shoots because I may be seen as having too much fun. Guilty as charged
One of the ironies of the fashion business and most especially swimwear is that we are always shooting at the wrong time. In order for swim campaigns to be published in the spring, they need to be photographed in the dead of winter. This creates an eternal quest for the perfect summer. I am often seen in New York airports in the middle of winter in swim trunks, flip-flops, a t-shirt and sunglasses. I have probably been stopped a thousand times or more and asked, "Aren't your feet cold?". My standard is: "Yes but I am an optimist, the weather can only get better."
I feel very fortunate that my love of the sea, Mother Nature, and the elements prepared me well for this adventure. It has given me the inspiration to share some of what I have learned and to create a forum where people can ask for tips, so I have just launched my "Tips and Tricks" playlist on my Youtube channel.
I didn't have the privilege of a formal education in photography. My education came from the school of life and I've had the great fortune to be able to meet and ask some of the masters of photography. "Tips and Tricks" will include what has been passed on to me, or what I have learned by trial-and-error. It won't just apply to aspiring professionals. I realize we all love photography equally so I have added tips to include using your smart phone and another set meant for people who are more seriously invested in equipment. Please subscribe to "Tips and Tricks" which can be found here and I'll always let you know when a new series are launched. The first ten tips are from my swim experiences and they are out now.
The Art of Swim
As I have traveled this amazing world with many of the most renowned models of our time like Gisele, Adriana, Candice, and Jasmine, I have found myself in stunning locations with extremely talented people who love the creative space of photography as much as myself. And being in such amazing locations, like Richard Bransons's Necker Island, St. Barts, or the Mediterranean inspires us all to "do something special". That wonderful formula has allowed me to capture private works of art exhibitions and books. In 2008, I published my first book, 'Russell James Retrospective.' In the same year, I launched my very first major solo art exhibition at Camera Work Gallery in Berlin. On the cover of that book is Gisele Bündchen, and that image and several of the swim images in the book have gone on to be some of my most collected works, which can be found on my Artsy page. This year as my art exhibits take place in different countries, I will make sure some of these first works are in the shows. I'll keep you posted as I get closer to the dates.
The end of 2018 also saw the release of my very first Limited Edition book, "Angels". Four years int he making and only one thousand copies total, I have been extremely careful about how and when we release each small batch. You will see the influence of 'swim' in some of those pages. I am planning to release the next 100 copies soon, in conjunction with my first art exhibit of 2019, which I will be announcing shortly. For more information and to order copies of the books as they are released, visit here.
As I start this year's shooting schedule, my very first project will be swimwear. I tried to act as though I wasn't too excited about it, however I think my fist pumping and air jumps might have given me away. I'll keep you posted on that shoot as soon as the images can be released. Meanwhile, if you would like to view some flashbacks to my various adventures in swim, I have put up a few videos on my YouTube channel, which can be found here. Some are quite serious and artsy, which may betray the amount of fun that was had.
I wish you each a great start to the year wherever you are. If you see me in the snow in flip-flops, don't worry. I have good reason to be optimistic that my toes will defrost soon.