Fotograf Magazine

Stefan Ruiz

Cholombianos

Stefan Ruiz originally studied painting and sculpture. Since adopting photography, he has identified with the more conservative – in American terms – paper-print side of the spectrum, with long exposures and over-exposed work with still life being far more frequent in his viewfinder than snapping the right picture at the right place and time. The evolution of Ruiz as an artist can be reconstructed as a story of immersion in classical painting, leading to portrait photographs which scream to the world their predilection for the Flemish and Dutch masters of the early modern era. Stefan Ruiz’s modernity, however, is not set exclusively in the residences of the privileged. He photographed Bill Clinton in the same way as he did his art students, the inmates of San Quentin state prison: isolated from the backdrop, set in truly classical poses, namely in (semi)profile, or looking back over the shoulder. In magazines such as Rolling Stone or Vice he published photographs of outcasts of the so-called Third World (African refugee camps) and stars of the First World (Laura Bush, James Brown) as well as the netherworlds of pop culture virtuality. This is also what his book is about – titled The Factory of Dreams, Ruiz photographs here the studio sets and actors of Mexican telenovelas. And yet Stefan Ruiz’s portfolio is truly American – suspended between the impossibility of escaping the legacy of Walker Evans in charting America’s suburbs and backwaters, as well as the face of Cindy Sherman (in plain clothes) emerging against a dark backdrop. It is however in the shadow of North America, in its largest periphery – in Mexico – that Ruiz finds his cholombianos, young would-be Columbians from the streets of Monterrey.

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