Russell Young

Works on paper

Russell Young was born in 1959 in Yorkshire, where he was immediately put into a foster home, then a nunnery, and was adopted before reaching the age of one. No one knew who exactly his birth parents were, though there were rumors his mother was fourteen, and his father was from Italy. In Northern England, he spent much of his time moving from town to town and living an isolating existence. Here he would take his first photographs of birds on the lawn only for the film to come back developed so dark he could hardly make out the birds. Like these first photographs, Young’s life developed with areas blotted by abandonment. The lack of a personal or even a shared history has left him free to explore dreams and fantasies of sometimes better, sometimes harsher worlds. That yearning has resulted in a body of work that is an uncompromising, intimate love letter addressed to these vast reaches, which, with every passing inscription, are revealed to be rich, wild frontiers.

With few prospects other than working in the factory towns, Young lied about his age to attend art college at the age of fifteen. Had he not done so, he would have most likely moved to the streets of London and died. He moved to the capital five years later and caught the attention of photographer Christos Raftopoulos, whom he assisted for several years. Raftopoulos introduced Young to another side of himself, building him his own darkroom, taking him to the opera, showing him the limits of his life did not need to confine him or his work. It was during this time—still rough in nature and occasionally homeless—he photographed the early gigs of Bauhaus, R.E.M., and The Smiths. His innate eye for movement landed him photoshoots for magazines and eventually his first record sleeve cover for the 1986 album Faith by George Michael.

Young continued to photograph celebrities and direct music videos, eventually leading him to the United States. The rock star aesthetic he had brandished in his photography lent itself to his earliest screen prints that followed in the 2000s. His first series, Pig Portraits, shown in Los Angeles in 2003, collected the infamous mugshots (real and staged) of celebrities awash in fame and monochrome but also restrained as a result of their actions. In his following series, Dirty Pretty Things, he began to incorporate his popular use of diamond dust. The glam shots of cultural icons, glittering in pulverized diamonds, embodied the lusts and aspirations of their eras.

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Works on paper

Black + White

Marilyn Chanel on Paper, Black + White

Cloud Blue & Black

Marilyn Crying on paper, Cloud Blue & Black

Russell Young

Bardot Thunder on Paper


Elvis on Paper, Pink


Elvis on Paper, Blue

Russell Young

Elvis on Paper

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Russell Young

Works on paper