Interview Series: Kevin Russ

There is a deep need in me to sell everything I own and strike out in a different direction. So naturally I admire, and I have become fascinated recently with those of my generation who wander with no destination. They turn up like bits of gold downstream far from where I’d expect. I’ve been following Kevin Russ as he roams for some time now. I fell in love with his work after coming across a series he shot while train hopping across the American Southwest. His work stills time in a way I crave and lacks packaging or pretension. These particular pictures were sent to me from Kevin right after he got them developed, 35mm film shot this summer. He was on his way from one place to the next, as seems to always be the case with this fascinating photographer. Have a read of our exclusive interview, below:

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LF: How do you find yourself where you are now, has this lifestyle always been the case, or was there a major shift at some point?

KR: About 4 years ago I decided to try and live out of my car and ever since then I’ve found myself bouncing around from thing to thing trying to keep myself creatively satisfied. I focus in on something and make it my life until I’m forced to end it or the work I’m making isn’t interesting to me anymore.

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LF: What sort of other creative outlets did you play with and why/how did you settle on photography for now? What has it given you that the others couldn’t?

KR: My creativity had gone into pretty much just music before photography. When you’re learning a new art you’re forced to use your creativity because you haven’t acquired the skills to tap in to. I had reached a point in music where I was on auto pilot and hadn’t really been creative for a while and photography opened that up for me. It was much more fun and that’s all I did every day, even dropped out of college so I could take more pictures.

LF: Where are you right now, as you answer these questions, what do you see?

KR: I’m in the Deep South just outside of Vernon on the Florida panhandle. Vernon, Florida has been on my mind ever since I saw the documentary film of the same name 5 years ago. I had to come see for myself if what I read on the Internet was true about many of the residents here blowing off their limbs for insurance money 50 years ago. I left Asheville yesterday and it’s my first night down here and I’m seeing a flashlight from a guy pulling his canoe out of Holmes Creek and loading it onto his atv and there’s a small campfire from some people who set up a tent near where I’m car camping.

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LF: What has this summer looked like for you?

KR: I spent the entire summer in Asheville, North Carolina documenting the life of Abby the spoon lady with a video camera. She’s been playing spoons on the street as her only source of income for the last decade so I had to get closer to see what that was all about.

LF: And what will become of said footage of Abby?

KR: I’m really not sure. I was kinda hoping a story would jump out at me during the time I was there but it didn’t. I’ve never made anything out of hours and hours of footage so I’m not sure if I have anything or not or what things are supposed to look like that this point or if I even want to do anything with video again. For now it’s just going to stay in the back of my mind and could be the beginning of a multi-year project or could be just a learning experience for me and end here. I’m fine with either.


LF: I fell in love with your work when I saw the train hopping series you did. Do you have a current project you are focusing on?

KR: I’m hoping to do an east coast horse tour during the month of September. I’ve heard of at least 5 places where the horses roam the east coast beaches between Georgia and Maryland.

LF: Can you tell me anymore on this? It sounds unreal.

KR: Most are on islands and some you have to take a ferry and some you can drive to. All I saw was a picture of horses on a beach on the Atlantic coast so I did some googling and it told me of where to find them. That’s really all I need to get myself to go anywhere: an inspiring picture. I’ll figure out the details when I get closer. But that’s really all I know.

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LF: Where is the greatest place you have ever woken up?

KR: In the middle of the Arrigetch peaks in Alaska.

LF: Where is Home. Capital H, Home?

KR: For me it’s my parents house on the central coast of California that feels like home. It’s the 20 years I spent there growing up and every holiday season I’ve been there thereafter that has made it home for me.


LF: Favorite place and why?

KR: The sierras and all the land southeast of there down to the border of Mexico which includes Death Valley, the Colorado River, Mojave and Sonoran deserts etc. It’s a place I haven’t gotten tired of and I’ve spent a good about of time around those parts. It’s the granite in the mountains, the otherworldly terrain in Death Valley and the cactus in the desert.

LF: Do you have any published books out?

KR: I do. Just this past June I released a book through VSCO’s Artist Initiative called The Western States. It’s pictures from my first couple years on the road split up into location based chapters with short written intros on why the particular location stood out to me.

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LF: What can you not live/travel without?

KR: My iPhone. Although I’ve been thinking about doing a trip without it because I’m so attached and shooting exclusively film. I think I’d let more things happen by chance if I did that which makes them seem meant to be. I have so much control with this thing.

LF: What are you learning from all of this?

KR: I used to take everything for granted. There is more to life than what I know and what I was taught growing up. I am capable of things I don’t think I am capable of, as is everyone. Being comfortable is overrated. The world seemed bigger and life seemed longer before I started traveling.

LF: How FAST do you live?

KR: I never know what I’m going to do next. It keeps me moving.

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