The Art Maverick: Mike Ruiz
By Andrew Villagomez
Enter the world of celebrity photographer Mike Ruiz and meet all those involved with his artwork—all just from one app on your own iPad.
Last month, Mike Ruiz released his successful coffee table book, Pretty Masculine (which seeks to deconstruct societal notions of masculinity and femininity), as an app with features that revolutionizes the way the public can absorb art—and potentially how photographers will be showcasing their work in the future.
"After I completed the app, that is when it occurred to me that this is an innovative way to consume art," Ruiz told Out. "It got me thinking of how time goes on and technology progresses, people need to know more and get all their information in like five seconds."
As an artist and photographer, Ruiz has always been interested in "peeling back layers and portraying people out of context," and has been vocal on his process. But he's the first artist to show it as publicly as it is now and at the viewer's convenience, while giving each piece of art a larger story than just what meets the eye. "It's really cool be the first photographer to do this sort of thing," he said. "Not only for a gallery of a series of images, but also as a platform to celebrate everyone who worked on the images."
Each photo on the app comes in high-resolution, enough to zoom in and see the pores of the models, and users can scroll to see how each model is transformed to the final artwork, along with behind the scenes video footage. You've seen all those sexy models: now meet them and the makeup artists through profiles that include bios, photos, and video interviews.
Ruiz shared his thought process while developing the app: "I sort of correlate it to when you are walking through a museum with a headset, and you're given explanation of things. [The app] gives you a whole new experience than if you were just to walk and view the art on your own, not knowing any of the history or about the artists. It is for people who don't get to make it to big cities and the Met Museum or galleries in Chelsea. It's an opportunity for them to get that kind of experience."
Models: Matus Valent & Alejandro Salgueiro
With everything being documented, Ruiz admits the creative and practical process has changed a bit. "It certainly changed my approach... you can't just be a photographer anymore. You have to be a documentary maker, social media expert, master marketer, and a publicist. When I go into a shoot, I have to wrap my head around all of those things. It can be a little overwhelming when I first start a shoot. It's like, 'Ugh, this day is going to wear me out,' but ultimately it can be really gratifying."
It's not just the way a photographer has changed but the subjects and talent have evolved over the past decade. "The artists and models have changed as well," Ruiz explains. "This generation has become a very media savvy one, and because of reality TV and social media, everyone can be a celebrity. It changes people's collective consciousness in how they socialize and work... Everyone shows up to my shoots all decked out because they know they are going to be videotaped. Life has become like a reality show." He knows: Ruiz was the best asset of the reality show, The A-List: New York and is a recurring photographer and judge on RuPaul's Drag Race.
Pretty Masculine also includes transgender women in behind the scenes photos—most famously Carmen Carrera and Isis King. Mike said that his goal is to be inclusive of everyone, but not because of their sociological attributes.
"[Isis and Carmen] inspire me, and I wanted to include them, it's not like 'OK, now I'm going to shoot a whole segment of transgenders' I've never been inspired by one thing; I've been inspired by diversity, and I want to convey that with the Pretty Masculine project."
A bonus feature of the app allows users to "become artists" as well. With the 'Studio Section,' users can take photos of friends (or one's self) and make them over with Pretty Masculine themes—which you can then share via Twitter and Facebook. See it in the app video preview below: