Ethan Russell is a multiple Grammy-nominated photographer and director. In 1968 Ethan was a young American with a Nikon camera living in London and aspiring to become a writer. A few years later he was one of the foremost rock and roll photographers in the world. And, to date, is the only known rock photographer to have shot album covers for The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who.
Born in Mt. Kisco, NY, Ethan and his family moved to California in 1952. While attending UC Davis, where he majored in English and Art, he became interested in photography. After graduation, Ethan moved to London, where he worked part-time in a home for autistic children. His fate was sealed one day in 1968, when he received a casual invitation from a journalist friend to accompany him as a photographer on an interview. His interview subject turned out to be Mick Jagger, and his next shoot was with John Lennon.
Hired as the photographer for The Rolling Stones American Tour 1969, The San Francisco Chronicle described him as “one of only 16 people on the tour, including the band. With unprecedented access to the Rolling Stones, he captured photos that have become classics.”
Ethan’s images of Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones' production Rock and Roll Circus”] attracted the interest of The Beatles, where his shots at Twickenham Film Studios ended up on the cover and gatefold of their album Let It Be.
Shooting The Who’s 1971 cover Who’s Next led to shots for the book that accompanied Quadrophenia, and that work led to a Grammy nomination.
For years, Ethan’s images documented a virtual who’s who in rock and roll history: Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, The Moody Blues, Cream, Traffic, Eric Clapton, The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Rickie Lee Jones, Rosanne Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carlos Santana and Phil Everly. As Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones said, “Ethan has taken some of the greatest pictures in rock and roll… maybe the greatest ever.”
In 1978 he shifted his focus to film and video, becoming a pioneer in the music video industry producing and directing several films for Hank Williams, Jr., Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, and k.d. lang. Ethan produced and directed the final footage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono walking in Central Park a week before John’s death.
He lives in Marin, California with his wife, stepson, and son.
Photograph of Ethan Russell © Alan Depp Marin Independent Journal