Featured CPAC Member: Russell Banks


Member Since: 2019

We are grateful for the steadfast support of our organization by members who are both part of the Denver arts community and those located outside of Colorado, even the US. Our Featured Member series recognizes and celebrates the excellent work of our members at all levels. Russell Banks is sharing his latest project, Floating World, where he explores the fantasy world of giant cruise ships, which has been featured at the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins and in Float Photo Magazine.


By Russell Banks

As an artist, I’m drawn to the quirks and ironies of life, the ambiguous moments, and how we pursue our fantasies and pleasures. I look for scenes that invite viewers to wonder and perhaps imagine a story as they absorb the details. I come from a documentary tradition, believing the real world can dish out material far more compelling and credible than anything I could make up on my own.

As a regular cruise ship passenger, I roam the decks, gently probing the tension between the dream and the reality—the muddled border between our mundane, daily lives and this carefully packaged fantasy world we anxiously seek. I see cruising as a metaphor for how many of us live: who we are at this time. So, I cheer myself by finding the comedy in this spectacle on the sea.

I’m drawn to situations where the veneer of elegance and glamour seems a bit thin, and the humor and irony begin to show through. Behind it all is desire: our need to be indulged, to feel blessed and to get the affirming selfie.

This project began in 2015, when I started photographing onboard to do something creative during my wife’s favorite mode of travel. I love to explore the way passengers pursue the dream in this artificial, “Disneyfied” environment, with its outlandish decor, nautical architecture and little details that twist the illusion. As the set of images took form, it seemed appropriate to name it after the Floating World (Ukiyo) of Japan’s Edo period, where the emperor’s potential rivals were gathered to seek pleasure and distraction through art, entertainment and other indulgences.


Russell C. Banks started with a Brownie Bullet camera at age eight, learned to use a darkroom in high school, and before leaving for college had used his bathroom sink to run the nine-chemical Ektachrome E-4 process in one-pint Coke bottles. He is now an artist working out of Windsor, Colorado.

He earned a photojournalism degree at the University of Texas at Austin in 1974, taking courses under Frank Armstrong, James Colson and Garry Winogrand, then moved to El Paso to work at the University’s El Paso campus news bureau. Outside of work, he often carried a 4×5 field camera into the deserts and mountains of the Southwest, and brought that large-format sensibility to his Infant Series project, shot in 35mm and published in the second edition of the Time-Life Library of Photography book, “Photographing Children.”

During those years, Banks had work in solo shows at the Salt Lake Art Center in Utah, Abilene Fine Arts Museum in Texas, Fox Fine Arts Gallery in El Paso, and the Portland Community College Northview Gallery in Oregon. His work was included in juried exhibitions at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Palm Beach Junior College, Amarillo Art Center, Boston Visual Artists’ Union, Austin Photographic Cooperative Society, Northlight Southwest Exhibition at Arizona State University, St. Edward’s University (Texas), Allen Street Gallery in Dallas, and the Armory Museum Festival Show in Santa Fe.

Today, most of his attention goes to the Floating World project, where he explores the the fantasy world of giant cruise ships. Recently, his work has been accepted for juried exhibitions at the Fitchburg Museum of Art, Massachusetts; PhotoPlace Gallery in Middlebury, Vermont; Colorado Photographic Arts Center in Denver; the SE Center for Photography in Greenville, South Carolina; Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado; A. Smith Gallery in Johnson City, Texas; Texas Photographic Society; Emerald Art Center in Springfield, Oregon;  Marin Society of Artists, California; and Davis Orton Gallery in Hudson, New York. In October 2020, he was the featured artist in F-STOP Magazine’s “Documentary 2020” edition. In 2022, he was selected as one of 30 artists in the “30 Over 50” exhibition at the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins and his project was featured in Float Photo Magazine.