Russell Young British, b. 1959


Young was born in Yorkshire in 1959. Adopted as a baby, he had an unsettled and isolated childhood. He studied photography, film and graphic design at Chester Art College where he studied under Jack Straw, whom he attributes as one of the few geniuses he has ever met and the person who “showed him out of the darkness and brutality of Northern England”. He later moved on to London, where he struggled to make a living. After months on the streets he was taken on as an assistant by photographer Christos Raftopoulos, who mentored him and who helped him to forge his own identity as a commercial photographer.


Young developed his own projects and began to make a name for himself shooting live gigs of bands such as Bauhaus, REM and The Smiths, which led to multiple commissions from magazines and record companies. His sleeve imagery for George Michael’s ‘Faith’ album, which sold over 25 million copies, brought even more high-profile portrait commissions for artists such as Morrissey, Björk, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Diana Ross.


In 1991 he moved to Los Angeles and established himself in the music industry, going on to direct over 100 videos for MTV. Despite his success, he became increasingly disenchanted by the corporate lack of creativity in the industry and in 2000 travelled to Tuscany for a month to rediscover himself. Realising he really wanted to pursue a career as a fine artist, he relocated to New York and rented a studio in Brooklyn. His first solo exhibition, ‘Pig Portraits’, which depicted raw celebrity mug shots, was a complete about turn from the airbrushed images he had sought to achieve in his music videos. The series brought him to the attention of the art world and launched his career as a fine artist.


In 2005 he returned to California with his family and held his ‘Fame + Shame’ series with the Art of Elysium, which documented the fallout from the cultural excesses of the past.