My Story


Learn about my story and what life events lead me to pursuing my passion. My name is John D. Russell and I am a Redondo Beach Photographer.


In 2005 my mother slipped into a coma..

I thought that was it. I was devastated. After pleading to the transplant coordinator at UCLA, my mother was given a second chance. She had been on the liver transplant list for 5+ years and her number was finally called.


She awoke the next day after the 10+ hour surgery..

My mom’s body was taking the new liver well and she seemed to be on a speedy road to recovery but something just wasn’t right. The doctors were combating a pesky lung infection that was seriously hampering her ability to breath on her own.

For 31 days I communicated on a white board with my mother who was unable to speak due to being ventilated. She would point out letters and I would arrange them on the white board to form sentences..

I visited her almost every day. The ICU doctor in charge of my mother’s care even highlighted the fact that I was there more than she was. Even still, I felt helpless and I guess being there gave me a sense of control.

Sadly, my mother lost her battle and passed away in ICU, 31 days post transplant.

After I sent her off in style (click here to view) I had the unfortunate task of going through her belongings. To make things worse, I had to do this in two different states.

Needless to say, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life. I donated virtually everything to charity and kept some personal items that belonged to my mom, along with some of my own childhood mementos.

You know what else I kept?

Our family photos.

My mother was my only active parent and my only immediate family. I have no brothers and sisters and my grandparents passed away when I was in high school. I realized that the only tangible memories I had of my family were in those albums and images my mom had kept through the years. It was then that I realized the IMPORTANCE and the POWER of the photograph.

That is a major reason why I have committed my life to being a photographer. This is not my hobby. I don’t shoot for extra cash. Photography is my life. It is my passion.

After my mother’s death, I quit my job as a Commercial Underwriter and went back to college. I went to Mesa Community College in San Diego and transferred to CSU, San Marcos in North County San Diego. 3 long years later, I graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis in Accounting. It was one of the proudest and happiest days in my life. I wish my mother was there to witness it. She was a CFO and would have absolutely found so much humor in my degree choice. =)

While I was a full time student, I started shooting part time. Mostly real estate back then but one day I sent my resume and portfolio out to about 20 photographers in San Diego and ended up apprenticing for an up and coming wedding and lifestyle photographer in the area. We shot 15 weddings that Summer and once I completed my apprenticeship I decided to go off on my own. That was 2006 when I launched John D. Russell Photography.

Nowadays, I specialize in commercial photography and lifestyle photography.

I’ve traveled all over the world and am internationally published.  My work has taken me around the U.S and to exotic locations including French Polynesia, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Egypt, Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands, Switzerland, St. Lucia, The Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Hawaii. In fact, I’ve been on assignment in over 30 countries!

Please take a look at my work.
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