Escapism and The Exotic

Renowned photographer and traveler Kevin Russ takes The Unseasonal on a world tour. Fasten your seatbelts and let us take your breath away.
Words: Caroll Sun Yang
Images: Kevin Russ

"Sure enough, they were digging for gold. Alex and Jim were their names and both quite friendly, especially Jim as he was under the influence."

Born and raised in California, Russ moved to Oregon, went to college, bought a camera, dropped out of college, and hit the road.

From his travel journals: 5:18pm: Made it to Nome and I am currently sitting on the beach looking out into the Bering Sea, sun and wind in my face, and a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. After I got off the plane, I stayed at the airport to charge my phone and make a tuna sandwich. Everyone was getting picked up or taxied away but the town was only 1.5 miles away. As I walked up, I went for the beach then I walked the town streets after taking some pictures. I waved to a couple guys at a truck partway blocked into a large hole in the sand. I had heard there is gold here from the lady who checked me in at the Fairbanks Airport so I decided to go up to them and see what they were up to.

"It's just an obsession to see everything. That feeling you have when you're climbing a mountain or going around a bend in a canyon: you just have to see what's on the other side. Even if it's not good, you don't know that, but you're compelled to see what's around there… what's next."

Russ started traveling after he bought a house. He got restless. "I started going out for a week or two at a time until I realized I could keep going out and not come back ever if I wanted." He doesn’t feel it’s necessary to be a part of a creative community: "Sometimes feeling like a lone wolf is beneficial to the work I make."

"It's definitely lonely at times, but that goes away whenever I am capturing something that is really inspiring to me. I'm just so focused on capturing what I'm seeing... I'm there, it's that moment, and I may never come across it again."

"Lately, the most rewarding part of photography has been the amount of people who have told me they've been inspired to go out and shoot somewhere or do something they hadn't done outside of their comfort zone because they want to see new things and shoot good photos."

"One of the main reasons I use the phone [camera] is because it keeps me outside and not inside on a computer editing photos. It also keeps what I do feeling more like a hobby. There isn't a finish line because the landscape is always changing and the light is always going to be different... those moments will never end."

"I think part of the storytelling in my photos comes from the emotion I feel when I get to a place. The stronger that is or the more I'm moved by it, I have to capture that in the photos or the photos need to move me in the same way that I was when I was there in person."

"There's always going to be something to see. There is no end. There's an end to a checklist of countries or cities, but there's no end to taking photos or exploring.”

"I will often run and literally chase light. I have to capture it. I'll also do hikes to tops of mountains, and the sun will be setting and I'll want to shoot it. I know it's going to be dark coming back, but it's hard to leave the mountaintop."

"Sometimes I do question myself, sleeping in my car and not seeing my family that much or just my friends or people who really care about me. That's when it's hard because I chose this for myself.

As humans, if everything is comfortable for us, we'll make drama because there is nothing else to do. But if you have more concerns about everyday living, you'll focus on something more productive." —Kevin Russ