Former photo director releases book

Retired XU Director of Photography Greg Rust has event promoting publication

By Morgan Miles, Staff Writer

The McDonald Memorial Library and the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion hosted an event on Nov. 3 featuring a book talk and signing with retired Xavier photographer Greg Ruston his most recently published book, Light Color Culture.

Library officials summarized Rust’s book as “(a showcase of) images from Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Ireland, Italy, Nepal, Nicaragua, Peru and Puerto Rico, as well as Native American communities in Montana and New Mexico.”

The third floor of the library is currently displaying Rust’s art.

Rust served as a photographer for Xavier for roughly 40 years. He graduated with an anthropology degree from Northern Kentucky University (NKU) in the 1970s, where he took many photography classes as an undergraduate. Eventually, Rust made a career out of photography as the director of photography at Xavier and as the official photographer for the Cincinnati Reds and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Photo courtesy of

Greg Rust, Xavier University’s former director retired from Xavier in 2020. He has recently released a book titled Light Color or Culture which includes Rust’s photographs of the world.

During the event, Rust explained that the book’s purpose is to shed light on diverse cultures represented by people and landscapes spanning five continents. 

He expressed disappointment in photography that displays culture in developing countries as typically impoverished or in a more negative light.

Rather than infiltrating cultures to take photos, Rust began by learning from the cultural communities he was interested in. He wanted to give back to the communities who opened up to him. 

To accurately depict the cultures he explored, Rust never posed the subjects in his photos. Instead, he captured their natural reactions to him and his camera. For Rust, taking photos focused on pride, natural reactions and the confidence the subject has in their culture is an integral part of his work.

His time at Xavier connected to his passion for photographing people in their natural environment.

Following his book’s introduction, Rust discussed the photography techniques used in his book.

When pulling together the page layout, Rust decided to position images according to how they related to each other visually, not by the location in which he took each picture.

“The flow in the layout of the book was like putting together a puzzle,” Rust said. 

By balancing the photos side by side, Rust felt the layout emphasized each image’s lighting, colors and textures. 

Describing the composition of his photography, Rust explained that he would find something intriguing, like a tree, and make it 80% of the background. Then, he would wait for someone or something interesting to appear in the foreground, like a woman walking by, and capture the scene.

In a display of photographic range, he also put images in his book that were complex, busy and filled without a particular focus on background or foreground ratios.

“This may be the only chance I get to have a photobook. I want the photos to be

my legacy,” he said.

Rust encourages everyone to take a chance to travel abroad to experience being a minority or in the majority. He believes immersion into different worlds leads people to reconsider how they feel about the U.S. and how they think about how other countries see the U.S.

During the question and answers portion, a guest asked Rust if he had ever found himself in conflict with the people he was photographing.

“Most of the time, I was invited,” he answered. “You don’t just walk in and take pictures. Just the word ‘take’ is what has happened to these (cultures) for years and years and years.”

“I try to give back to these people instead,” Rust added.

To order a book for $39.00 contact the artist