"Like Ingo!" I interject with (a possibly embarrassing amount of) enthusiasm, referring to General Hospital’s Ingo Rademacher, who will also appear in Face.
“He’s one of my dear friends,” Russo says of Rademacher. “One of the coolest, nicest, sweetest people. There’s so many pricks in this town. If I don’t like the person, they’re not in my book. I don’t give a shit if they’re a big name.” Rather than aim to secure the biggest names he possibly could, Russo called upon his friends (some of whom do happen to be big names).
Perhaps the biggest surprise among them is Jim Caviezel, who famously portrayed Jesus in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. “I like Jim a lot,” Russo says. “I photographed him for another publication and he’s just a wonderful, beautiful person. He’s really nice and very spiritual. His face is very angelic and he has these amazing eyes. When he heard about this project, he wanted to help me. He was all about it.”
Russo is emphatic about making his shoots fun and drama-free. “In your twenties and thirties when you’re climbing the ladder, you have to take the bullsh*t. But at this point,” says Russo, who turns 40 this year, “I can’t put a monetary price on my happiness. Because, at the end of the day, we’re not curing cancer. We’re just taking photographs. In the past couple years I have taken on the persona of: I am not getting nervous; I am not letting people bother me; and I am not working with people who are drama.”
That attitude makes it easy for the people he photographs. “I love him,” says Clay Adler. “I wish every photographer were like him. He’s really easy to work with; he shoots everything really fast and he has such an artistic eye.”
About Face began as an idea that Russo formed for a gallery show almost five years ago. The first men he shot were Jason Lewis and Chace Crawford, and all photos were shot using a kind of film Polaroid stopped manufacturing in 2008; so the book will act as a sort of exclamation point at the end of this era of Polaroid. “There will never be another book like this,” says Russo with a glint of pride.
In the finished manuscript, Russo has placed, alongside these photos, quotes about beauty, masculinity and strength from a variety of sources, including Confucius, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk. “The really fun thing for me was going through and finding quotes that I thought were fitting, because I had all these quotes and I tried to match them up with the guy,” says Russo. “I had to see that the quote fit the person. Even though the quote may not necessarily reflect who they are, for me, that’s what I saw."