Celeb Photographer Mike Ruiz Talks Transforming A-Listers and Doherty's Diarrhea Dog Debacle
By Maggie Coughlan Posted Mar 11th 2010 08:51AM
Best known for making celebrities almost unrecognizable in his edgy and futuristic photographs, Mike Ruiz has found a way to repackage stardom with his camera lens. With a client list that any casting director would envy, Ruiz is a familiar face thanks to appearances on 'Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List,' 'America's Next Top Model' and 'RuPaul's Drag Race' as both photographer and guest judge. Ruiz sat down with PopEater to talk inspiration, hilarious on set experiences and what's next for the ever-evolving photographer.
Your photographs are beyond surreal. You've managed to reinvent how the public sees a celebrity. The Kim Kardashian photographs for YRB disguised her in such a way that we had to do a double take! What is your inspiration behind this approach?
There's always something about people, like a side to them, that I see that sometimes they don't necessarily see themselves. I want to bring that out, bring it to the surface. A lot of it had to do with how I saw them. I like to present people in a way that's unexpected. I guess I'm a little bit of a shock and awe junkie, part of it has to do with that. It's mostly me kind of tapping into some underlying thing about people that I see and just kind of want to bring to the surface.
You've photographed a slew of celebrities in a hyper-stylized way. Are most celebrities open to your ideas?
It is usually collaborative. Obviously they need to be aware of what I'm doing ahead of time, although, Kim Kardashian had no idea. She walked into the studio and I said, 'OK look, this is what we're doing.' I was on pins and needles until she agreed to it, but she's pretty cool, she's pretty invaluable that way. We were working with a really solid team that she knew from before, and I had worked with her before, so she trusted me. Usually, I do have a contact, I gotta run it by the publicist so they're cool with it. But these days, because of the wild success of the shoots I did with Kim Kardashian, Lance Bass or Adam Lambert, publicists are coming to me for that reason. They know they're gonna get some wild transformation. It's less of a struggle now because they know that's what they're getting and if that's not what they want, to not even start a dialogue.
As a former model, you've been on both sides of the camera. How has that experience helped your relationship with your subjects?
I'm sure that my understanding of the relationship between a model and a photographer, from being in front of the camera, certainly facilitates my ability to draw things out of people. I know how I responded, what I responded to from a photographer, so I try and use that. It's usually just being very respectful and trying to inspire them from a creative standpoint, as opposed to just barking orders or directions at people without them knowing what it is I'm going for. A lot of photographers do it, they're kind of just in their own little world and they just scream and yell and have meltdowns and hope for the best. I'm a little more nurturing than that.
How did you make the leap from photographer to TV personality with your stints on 'RuPaul's Drag Race' and 'America's Next Top Model'?
I've been friends with Ru for years and years and years. I directed a music video for him, six, seven years ago. From that experience, we totally bonded and hit it off. It was kinda like a very funny comedic date idea for the music video. From that we realized we had a similar crazy sense of humor, so we worked on a film project together. Ru knew that I would be up for doing something funny and lend some kind of camp value to 'Drag Race,' so that's why he had me on the show. Then for 'Top Model,' I'm friends with Jay Manuel so he hooked me up with that. From that, things kind of snowballed. Everyone started asking me to do episodes of their shows as an expert in my field. Now I have a couple of things of my own in development.
Anything you can tell us about?
It's too early, I got reamed yesterday for shooting off my big mouth! I gotta reel it in. Very promising and the concept is great. It ties everything I'm doing together... celebrities, camp, it's like a really elevation kind of thing. It's not like a train wreck reality show, it's like a really cool, slick, fashion kind of thing.
You've really photographed the who's who of Hollywood. Have you ever been star struck?
A couple of times! Oddly, the first time I met Debbie Harry. She's been so influential to my own creative process from my early teen years. She just impacted my life on so many levels. To meet her was just like weird, I wasn't anticipating it, I walked into the room, I started mumbling and stumbling, like hyperventilating, like, 'Dude! What is wrong with you!?' People are people. She was who she is and cool and down to earth. She diffused my nervousness immediately. We kind of hit it off. Honestly, probably the only person I've ever really had that profound of a star struck thing.
Who are you eager to photograph?
There's a ton of people. Obviously my aesthetic and the kind of way I do everything, super-stylized and surreal, Lady Gaga totally appeals to me. I would love to work with her. Outside of that I have to say, like all of my old, iconic people that I've always dreamed about working with... I kind of have! I'm pretty fortunate in that respect. It really depends on what people are doing, that's relative, that's inspiring to me.
Wow. Photographing so many talented people has got to lead to some amazing stories. Craziest thing that's ever happened on a shoot?
The only story that I always go back to, and this is quite a while ago, it's a little old school. Shannen Doherty had these giant Rottweilers, one of them was sick as a dog, shall we say, had really horrible explosive diarrhea and was crapping all over the gown. We were all trying to contain this dog and he had projectile diarrhea all over this really expensive gown! It was funny in hindsight, but it wasn't funny at the time.
You recently posed for photographer Adam Bouska and the NO H8 campaign, can you tell us what that was like? How did you get involved with?
It was great! I'm an openly gay man and I support any efforts for that. Any opportunity I have to make any sort of impact as far as gay rights or overcoming adversities or gay youth, I act on. It's such an admirable cause and it brought such attention to gay rights in a positive way, I just wanted to be a part of it.
Any advice for budding photographers?
If I have to give some tangible advice, I would say like writers, they get up every morning and they force themselves to write for an hour, it's the same thing with photography. Every single day when you're starting out, just shoot one thing. Just walk down the street and take a picture of one thing you find interesting. Just force yourself to shoot everyday! It helps develop your sensibility and your aesthetic, your consistency and your discipline.
We've seen your photographs on the covers of magazines, in advertising, album covers, book covers, you've directed film and music videos, so what's next for Mike Ruiz?
I want to do more on-air stuff. I want it all to relate to photography. Photography is what I love and what I'm passionate about, so everything that I do has to trickle down from that. I do want to do more on-air stuff because of doing 'Top Model.' I get e-mails from all over the world from kids who I've inspired somehow. I feel like now that's my responsibility to kind of continue that. Help the underdog. Have a platform so I can do some good on a broad scale.
For more Mike Ruiz photos and info, check out his Web site MikeRuiz.com!
- Jennifer Aniston
- Paris Hilton
Kate Middleton is officially a princess. She walked the aisle in an Alexander...
According to Denise, she's not sure that her estranged ex is completely sober....
Popeater Hot Topics
- Amanda Bynes free after arrest for tossing bong out of apartment window, police say
- Morgan Freeman seems to fall asleep during on-air interview
- Jennifer Aniston is a stripper in new movie role, who is your favorite good girl gone bad?
- Amanda Bynes Wears Blonde Wig in First Mugshot, Mariah Carey Suffers Wardrobe Malfunction: Top 5 Stories
- Elisabeth Moss Slams Jeremy Piven as "Highly Unprofessional"
- Ken Jeong Talks Hangover's Nude Scenes and Playing With the Asian Stereotype
- LeAnn Rimes New ‘Just A Girl Like You Video’— Watch It Here!
- Jodi Arias Jury Foreman Speaks Out —‘This Girl Was Crucified In The Court Of Public Opinion’