Russell Young was born and raised in northern England, a landscape he considers formational in his creative pursuit of light, color, and the mythology of the American West. Young lied about his age in order to attend art school at the age of 15, and later moved to London where he began working as a photography assistant to Christos Raftopoulos. During this period, Young photographed nascent bands including R.E.M. and The Smiths, eventually landing a record cover for George Michael’s 1986 album Faith.
After making dozens of music videos, Young abandoned the music industry; he spent a period of time meditating in Tuscany, reemerging to shift gears and restyle himself as an artist. Young moved to California in 1991, and made his first prints in the early 2000s. He debuted his well-known series Pig Portraits in Los Angeles in 2003, a group that featured large-scale, colorful screenprints of celebrity mugshots – some actual, and some staged. Next came the series Dirty Pretty Things, in which he first introduced the use of embedding diamond dust into his images of cultural icons.
In 2010, Young contracted the H1N1 virus and was in a coma that seriously impacted his memory; he had to relearn to read and write, and forgot the color green. He credits this near-death experience with a loss of innocence within his subject matter and style. Today, he lives and works in Southern California and his work is held in the Getty Collection, Los Angeles, the Saatchi Collection, London, and the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, among others.