It’s rare to find your true calling in life…but when you do, you better hold onto it, and tight. For world traveling photographer, Mike Ruiz, he found his passion in the art the day he was gifted a camera for his 28th birthday. From that point on, his love and passion for taking photos grew more and more as he found himself part of many projects from shooting a cover for Prince to creating different philanthropic endeavors to producing an annual animal rescue calendar. Also very much involved in supporting LGBTQ + rights, Ruiz ensures that he gives back to the community in any way possible. Using OnlyFans as a means to do so, Ruiz brings on innovative, classy, and talented ways to make a difference, one day at a time. Mike Ruiz is the embodiment of what makes this world a beautiful place so hop onto the Ruiz Express and get ready for a trip of a lifetime!
Tell us the story of how and why you decided to become a photographer. How has your journey been up until now?
I was 28 when I was gifted a camera for Christmas. The second I picked the thing up, something washed over me that was all consuming. It became a permanent appendage. I immediately began using it to communicate things that I was unable to do verbally. I started producing elaborate shoots without even considering that I was going to make it a career. It was something that I loved doing so much, I found myself shooting 24/7. It wasn’t until a year and a half and $150k of credit card bills later that I decided to turn my obsession into a business. That was 26 years ago and I still feel the awe and excitement I did back then. The camera was a present but the life it gave me was the real gift.
What are some obstacles you faced along the way?
I’ve never perceived anything to be an obstacle. I think one of my more valuable skills is to problem solve. I’ve never thrown my hands up in defeat in any professional situation. I think that’s the secret to my longevity. I never say that I can’t do something, I always figure out a way.
Share with us more about “Social Impak.”
Social Impak is one of the many philanthropic endeavors I’ve embarked on. I helped create an online retailer with my good friend Scott Bailey. I have a collection of items with images of mine printed on them. https://socialimpak.com/collections/mike-ruiz 25% of my proceeds go to The Ali Forney Center for Homeless LGBTQ+ Youth https://www.aliforneycenter.org/ and the Stand Up For Pits Foundation which is an organization that is dedicated to saving lives and ending the abuse and discrimination of Pit Bull “type” dogs. https://standupforpits.us/about-stand-up-for-pits/
Explain to us what was your purpose with “Flex Your Vote.”
I initiated a campaign with 7 other photographers to motivate and inspire people in the LGBTQ+ community to register and vote. Shockingly, 1 in 5 in the community was not even registered. The goal was to change that, especially with the most crucial general election of our lifetime soon upon us.
In what ways do you believe people can truly help make a difference in the world?
People tend to become so consumed with the pursuit of personal success that they forget that part of being successful is being a decent human being. We’ve become a society of capitalist hoarders. Personally, I find that the only way that I can truly feel gratified by any personal success is if I use it to benefit others, however big or small. It can all begin with just treating people with dignity and respect.
Looking back, in what ways have you evolved as a person thanks to your photography?
Photography has definitely completely transformed me. It’s given me the confidence that was completely absent in me for half of my life. That confidence has given me the ability to understand my worth, my ability as an artist, and my capacity as a human being. I often look at the camera in my hand and I’m astounded at the doors it has opened, the minds it has changed and the magical life this little piece of equipment has given me and so many others.
Who are some people you have worked with that had a strong impact on you?
Prince would have to top that list. I came of age listening to his music and was hugely influenced on many levels by him. To have him pick me from a long list of photographers to shoot him for a cover was surreal. Then, to be in Paisley Park having him defer to me for creative advice was utterly mind blowing.
Name and describe three of your top favorite shoots.
I did a shoot several years ago in the Australian Outback for Conde Nast Traveler which was such an incredible adventure. Just getting there was a trek and shooting in Uluru was magical.
Another was a 6 day shoot I did around the entire country of Iceland. It was of those incredible jobs where no expense was spared. We had a caravan of 6 trucks hauling everything from a gourmet kitchen to a trailer full of wardrobe and every other comfort imaginable. We also had the foremost location person on the island educating us all along the way. We shot in some of the most spectacular locations I had ever seen.
The most fun I’ve ever had on a job was directing the independent feature “STARRBOOTY” starring RuPaul, Candis Cayne, Lady Bunny, and a cast of hunky porn stars. From the first shot in November of 2005 to the last screening in Johannesburg South Africa in 2008 we laughed until milk shot out of our nostrils.
What pushed you to pursue a story interest in charity?
I have an abnormal amount of empathy. Coming from nothing, I always knew that if I ever had more than my share, I wouldn’t be able to keep it all for myself. I don’t need 10 cars or 10 homes but what I do need is to feel like I’m doing something besides hoarding a bunch of shit that I don’t need. I get WAYYYYY more satisfaction from helping save some dogs’ lives or helping some kids get off of the streets than I do from a Maserati.
Can you share with us the process of deciding to create a OnlyFans page? Did you hesitate at first? If so, what pushed you to continue with the idea? (btw donating 25% is so kind and amazing, love that!!!)
I post some much amazing content on social media for free, I thought that If I could monetize it somehow, I’d have yet another way of generating revenue for some organizations that I support. Along came Only Fans. I won’t be posting and XXX rated content, just a lot of BTS from shoots with some of the mega hot male models I work with. It will def be erotic but not graphic in any way.
What was your favorite part of shooting your annual animal rescue calendar?
My favorite part is meeting all of the dogs. Dogs have a calming effect on me and I love being in the company of as many as possible at all times. My daughter Julia is always by my side and the memory of my son Oliver keeps me inspired.
In your own words, explain in what ways your photography is unique to you.
My photography is unique to me in many ways, least of which are aesthetic. Photography has become such a multi-purpose tool for me. I’ve used it to brand myself as more than just a photographer. The ultimate goal is to be perceived as an activist, philanthropist, artist, and mentor.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Who the hell knows. I take it as it comes. The secret to my “success” is that I go with the flow, take notice of opportunities as they present themselves, and try not to be a total douchebag.
Photography by Mike Ruiz @mikeruizone assisted by Bryan Griffin @bryangriffinphotography
Creative Director Mike Ruiz @mikeruizone
Stylist Alison Hernon at Agency Gerard Artists @718blonde
Interview by Alexandra Bonnet @alexbonnetwrites
Custom Car courtesy of Bob Martel