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Check out Rusty Childress’s Artwork

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rusty Childress.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
Holiday family slideshows and looking through dozens of photo albums that my mother made first peaked my interest in photography because these images represented a heartfelt story to be cherished.  But when a family friend gave me a used Mamiya 35mm DSLR film camera as a teen my fire was lit.  I loved just looking at it and holding it, to me the camera itself was a work of art.  It was all black with white lettering and I had no clue how to use it but when I took film into the lab for developing I could hardly wait to see the results.

I studied Business and Geology in college but also ended up working for the NAU Lumberjack newspaper because they gave me free film and developing in exchange for covering events like concerts.  There was no instruction available, just trial and error as I waited with great anticipation to see my photos published each week with my photo credit next to it.  This experience filled me with creative enthusiasm and pride and I even earned a few awards along the way.

During my career in the automotive industry, any time away was dedicated to travel photography, primarily shooting marine wildlife and underwater seascapes.  When digital cameras came out I was an early adopter with the Nikon D100 with a Sea&Sea housing.  Digital enabled me to get real time feedback to check focus and exposure which satisfied my need for instant gratification.  My biggest challenge was to begin creating the artist within by previsualizating the story I wanted to tell with each composition and experimenting to cultivate my own creative voice.

When I sold my business in 2007 I started The Main Event Imaging LLC to shoot outdoor events like motorsports, concerts, and charity events.  Natural History is my focus today with G. Russel Childress Nature Photography where I spend time in the wild diving underwater, kayaking, riding an ATV, in the air or on a 4WD expedition.

Please tell us about your art. What do you do / make / create? How? Why? What’s the message or inspiration, what do you hope people take away from it? What should we know about your artwork?
I have shifted away from making people or man-made constructs subjects of my work. My creative direction today is to place mother nature on a pedestal, to make her the star of the show and promote preservation through imaging. Being off the grid and away from civilization puts me in touch with what’s real, plus I find that backcountry exploration is my pathway to experiencing flow, creativity and aliveness.

Celebrating and emphasizing the aesthetic value of nature, I want my images to leave people touched, moved, and inspired in such a way that empowers them to take ownership and provide stewardship of the natural world. Understanding that people protect what they love, I am committed to capturing nature’s moments and sharing the resulting images as a form of artistic activism and gratitude.

Most of our environmental struggles originate from an out-of-sight-out-of-mind scenario that threatens the equilibrium of our life support system that we call Earth.  For example, overpopulation is the most taboo elephant in the room.  In response to this impactful issue I created the Last Man Standing Series to portray the dystopian aftermath of human overpopulation and what it might be like to be the last person on Earth:

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
Fine art prints can be purchased directly from

Much of my nature work features the White Mountain region of Northeastern Arizona.  The retail outlets that show and sell my work are located in that area and can be found at

Choosing a creative or artistic path comes with many financial challenges. Any advice for those struggling to focus on their artwork due to financial concerns?
A birth certificate shows that we were born and our artwork shows that we lived…but it is no proof that we could pay your bills!  Our creativity does not have to be given away for free. Being an artist for the sake of creating art is sublime, but art was always meant to be shared, especially in the marketplace where we can get paid for our creative vision.

The role of artist and that of being a business person requires two very different skill sets and for this we need to seek out all relevant resources.  The key to an empowered life is to ask for what you want, but it is often the most challenging thing to do because we feel vulnerable.  Books, Google searches, Facebook pages, Youtube tutorials, leads clubs, educational conferences, professional organizations, Meetups, and email inquires are a great way to connect boldly to seek assistance of all kinds.

Making ends meet is always a challenge, especially when chasing new technology in the world of photography where just breaking even can be job one.  As a pragmatist I feel that life is too short to reinvent the wheel and that there are many successful artists that represent meaningful benchmarks for best practices.  Seek them out and find out what works, and especially what doesn’t, then experiment, break all the rules and do it your way.

The only advice worth taking is to do what brings you joy, and the best way to insure that you will stay motivated enough to keep pushing through obstacles is to follow your heart.  If you have high hopes and low expectations you won’t be disappointed, and if you work towards incremental progress you won’t regret taking the journey.   If you have both the ability and willingness to succeed the next step is to plan your work and work your plan.   Believe me, you don’t have to be smart to be successful, you just need to be lucky and experts agree that the harder you work the luckier you get, so make that a habit.

However you define personal success, I think it can be distilled down to having clarity of vision.  One of my favorite quotes comes from Paul J. Meyer and I think it says it all:  “If you are not making the progress that you would like to make and are capable of making, it is simply because your goals are not clearly defined.”

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Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Laura Ladrigan

    January 4, 2019 at 3:24 am

    Rusty, this embodies your work and also the man I know. bravo!

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