Michael Andreas Russ (born January 1945 in Berlin) is an American photographer, photo designer and film director.
In reference to his artistic cooperation Swordfishtrombones album cover production, singer Tom Waits commented on Russ’ work: “His approach to photography is with the eyes of a painter working with light. This technique is what drew me to Michael’s work in the beginning”.
Russ’ career as a photographer began in New York in the late 1960s where he photographed his fellow acting students. Self-taught, he eventually moved to his own studio off Union Square, Manhattan and connected with the local underground art scene. Evolving his own style, the grainy picture appearing in subtle motion as though it came of the silver screen, a B/W photograph by Russ was published on the cover of “Art Direction Magazine of Visual Communication” with a Gertrude Stein quotation: “The composition in which we live makes the art which we see and hear”. In his early years Russ focused on men’s fashion magazines and erotic sequential photographic scenes for Playboy Press books. He eventually experimented with distinctive photographic techniques, turning 35mm black and white film into chemically toned, masked, solarized and hand colored, ‘one of a kind’ silver gelatin prints. These ‘TinTones’ as Russ would call them eventually became the trademark of his work. They were published in popular fashion and lifestyle magazines and brought him international recognition among peers in the art world. Michael Russ “Prussian Blue” TinTone photo exhibition at the Los Angeles China Club was the basis for the artistic collaboration with Tom Waits who commissioned Russ for the cover photograph for the album Swordfishtrombones.