Born in Mt. Kisco, NY, in 1945, his family moved to California in when he was a child. He studied English and Art at UC Davis, where he began to develop an interest in photography. In 1968, he went to live in London, working part-time at a home for autistic children and aspiring to be a writer.
One day he received a phone call from a friend of his from the San Francisco Bay Area, asking him to accompany him as a photographer for an interview. This friend’s name was Jonathan Cott, and he was a founding contributor for Rolling Stone. His subject that day turned out to be none other than The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger, and the shot was for the front cover of the magazine.
Ethan’s first professional job as a photographer was shooting the front man for one of the biggest bands in the world. Perhaps more surprising is, his next assignment was to photograph John Lennon! About that period, Ethan later told Rolling Stone, “I thought, ‘This is it. I’m happy for the rest of my life.’”
Ethan Russell had only just begun what would be a very prolific career. After working with all the major stars of the 1960s-1970s he is now a multi Grammy-nominated photographer and director, an author, and the only photographer to shoot album covers for The Beatles (Let it Be, Hey Jude), The Rolling Stones (Honky Tonk Women, Through the Past Darkly), and The Who (Who's Next, Quadrophenia), among others.
His work appeared inside and on the cover of many magazines and albums before he shifted his focus to film and video. He was the Rolling Stones main photographer from 1968 to 1972, joining them on both US tours for Let It Bleed (1969) and Exile on Main St. (1972). His photos of the Rolling Stones Rock & Roll Circus caught the attention of Neil Aspinall, who invited him to shoot the Beatles at Twickenham Studios while they were recording Let It Be. He later joined only two others at John & Yoko’s home at Tittenhurst Park, documenting their final band portrait session. He also worked with Jerry Lee Lewis, Jim Morrison, Cream, Linda Ronstadt, John Hiatt, and Roseanne Cash, to name a few.
In 1978 he extended the work he had been doing as a still photographer into film and video, becoming one of the pioneers of music video. In the 1990s, he became active in the field of interactive media, serving as creative director of a company specializing in the desktop delivery of interactive video.
He is an award-winning creative director and the author of two books including, Dear Mr. Fantasy (Houghton Mifflin 1985), and Let It Bleed: The Rolling Stones 1969 U.S. Tour (Rhino Entertainment, 2007).
Today he continues to work in all aspects of his career including photography, writing, filmmaking and production. He lives in Marin, California with his family.