Have at ‘er Mike, finally an excuse to talk a bit about yourself! How did you got your start in photography, where are you from… let’s take a brief journey back to your roots!
RUIZ: I was born and raised in Montreal and left when I was 20. It was almost a decade after that, though, before I picked up a camera. In that decade, I tried my hand at many things including the culinary arts, flying, graphic design, modeling and acting. I got a camera for Xmas when I was 28 and became obsessed teaching myself everything there is to know about taking pictures. From there, everything unfolded organically and within 3 or 4 years, I was making a pretty decent living at it.
You have an amazing book of fashion and beauty photography, why fashion? What made you decide to focus on that direction?
RUIZ: From a very early age, I’ve always been inspired by fashion. In my late teens, I use to make my own New Wave outfits from thrift store remnants. When I started shooting, I found that dressing models up in over the top clothing and capturing it on film was hugely gratifying for me. Fashion is art and is often a commentary on the times we live in therefore by incorporating certain elements of fashion help me to better express what I need to say by my photography. I also love shooting beauty because there is something about the human face that facilitates my self expression. It almost becomes an extension of what I feel I can’t do with my own face.
What inspires you when you’re planning for a shoot?
RUIZ: I find inspiration in so many things such as film, art and often just something I’d seen on the subway. Ideas then mutate in from that to become concepts for shoots.
What have been your most challenging, most rewarding, and most disappointing photo shoots? And why?
RUIZ: The most challenging shoot I’ve ever done was an ad campaign for the SciFi Network that had us shooting in 95 degree heat (35 degrees Celsius), waist deep in a jelly fish infested lagoon. Between the heat induced nausea and the multiple jelly fish stings we all endured, it was very difficult but we got the shots we needed! Any day I get to do what I love to do is a rewarding day. I know that sounds hokey but I’m always abound with gratitude that I can do what I do AND get paid for it! As far as disappointments go, I’m not curing cancer so no matter what happens on a shoot (not that anything bad ever does!) as long as no one dies, it’s a freaking great day as far as I’m concerned!
When grabbing a body with a lens, what do you grab to prepare yourself for the unexpected?
RUIZ: I recently got the Canon Mark II 5D and I love it! I direct as well and shot a music video on it which turned out AWESOME!
Having done a serious amount of celebrity photography, and now being highly sought after – what got you there aside from your killer work? Was there a specific instance in your career or a collection of such instances?
RUIZ: When I started shooting, I was very naive and ballsy. I used to approach celebs at the gym in Hollywood and tell them that they needed to be photographed by me. Most of those encounters ended with security being involved but it did pan out a few times. Things have unfolded so incrementally that I don’t really think there was one particular “big break”. It’s been a steady uphill climb.
You were very intriguing and well-collected on Canada’s Next Top Model as well as America’s Next Top Model, a real joy to watch. Is it nerve wracking when trying to do the task at hand and knowing you’re being filmed for national TV? Are there some things you especially pay attention to (such as getting the camera on your extra good side [right?])?
RUIZ: I’m very comfortable in front of the TV cameras. I do have a good side that drives camera guys nuts when they have to reposition the lighting and camera to accommodate my neurosis! Other than that, I’m very at home on camera and at this stage of my life, there really isn’t much that intimidates me.
How did you find your retoucher(s)?
RUIZ: My best retoucher came up to me at the gym in Hollywood (much the same way I used to accost celebs) and insisted he work for me. That kind of chutzpah goes a long way with me. A recent addition to my stable of retouchers is a gal I went to highschool with who recently quit her job and has very quickly become an unbelievable retoucher.
Let’s start at going to sleep: what does a typical day look like for you?
RUIZ: It’s like boot camp. Before bed I eat a bowl of cottage cheese mixed with slow digesting protein powder (to feed my body throughout the course of the night) first thing I do every morning is, after 2 cups of coffee, I do 60- 90 minutes of cardio on an empty stomach. after eating a little something post cardio, I launch into my work day. The vast variety of things that I have to do on a daily basis keeps things from becoming monotonous and are too many to list here. After everything is done, I head back to the gym to do weights. It sounds a little excessive and probably is but I’m a total endorphin junkie. I then wind down with dinner with friends or sit me ass in front of the TV to watch what I have Tivo’d.
What are some of the brands that help make you be you?
RUIZ: I love me some Kiehls! Other brands that I use on a daily basis are Canon Cameras, American Apparel, Whole Foods, Epson, Blackberry, EAS Supplements, Lacie and last but NOT least, ID Lube!
It was brought to my attention that you’re represented online at the Shutterlounge gallery. Do you enjoy doing artistic shoots more so than the alternatives? And what, in your opinion, makes a photo become art?
RUIZ: Everything I shoot for myself (outside of advertising) is voicing something I need to say. I don’t know if that constitutes a difference between fine art and commercial art but everything on Shutterlounge is result of that cathartic process.
How important is music on the set?
RUIZ: Music is paramount! I don’t do much without music. I like to think that my life has a soundtrack and that it is always going. I like to have very high energy music on shoots to keep things moving at a quick and happy pace.
Who were some of the people you looked up to while you were searching for your own style?
RUIZ: I’ve always been inspired by Ruven Afanador ever since I worked with him as a model back in the late 80′s. Pierre and Gilles have always been a huge inspiration to me as well. Fashion designers like Parachute and Steven Sprouse (in the 80′s) and Alexander McQueen of late very much influence the way I approach shooting as well.
Do you have any advise for aspiring photographers trying to make the plunge into the pros?
RUIZ: The most important thing to consider when entering a career in the arts is one’s love for it. That has to be the only reason to do something. I always advise people wanting to go into photography to make an accurate assessment of how much they love what they do. If they get up every morning and all they want to do all day, every day is shoot, then the rest will fall into place.
What’s next for Mike Ruiz?
RUIZ: I have a few TV things in development including a scripted project called the “Ten 10′s” loosely based on me and my friends in the early 90′s written by the brilliant Benjamin Morgan. I’m also co-writing a song with Sylvia Tosun and Anton Bass for Traci Lords in my effort to revive her presence as a dance diva. Other than that I continue to shoot and direct and have a few more seasons on Canada’s Next Top Model.
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