Instagram is a great tool to connect to other photographers around the world. With a few clicks of a hashtag or two you are able to find some familiar places by people in your local film community. I was introduced to Alyssa Ruiz in this manner almost two years ago. This young photographer is finding her stride as a visual story teller and documentarian. I finally was able to wrangle her into an interview and introduce our Snapshot readers to a budding photographers take on film photography.
Introduce yourself to our Snapshot readers. Who you are and what you shoot?
My name is Alyssa Ruiz, born and raised in Long Beach, California. I take photographs of the environment around me; of the insignificant that people wouldn’t usually think twice about. When I go shoot, I visualize and capture the moment in a way that is meant to bestow a sense of nostalgia. Everything is reminiscent of the past and the present. The different places, subjects, times and the exact depth and positioning of everything are something that can never be duplicated precisely; my perception of these things will never be seen in that specific manner again. I’m currently working on a series/zine called SEE YOU NEVER that uses these visual concepts.
Tell us a about your camera and the film type you frequently shoot with.
The cameras I use are an extension of my soul. I always carry my Canon AE-1 plus random point and shoots around with me. All of my cameras have been bought from ebay or thrift stores for the low. It’s become an obsession to try and come up on as many cameras and film as possible; I am literally always hunting. I mostly shoot kodak gold, fuji superia, afga, kodak/ilford black and white films, and generic brands…I’m not too particular on names and manufacturers. I love shooting expired film, the thrill it brings not knowing what the outcome is going to be or if it is even going to come out at all is an indescribable feeling.
How long have you been shooting with film? How were you introduced to film photography?
I have been solely shooting film for my personal work for the past year now, but have been using film cameras since a kid. My parents were always obsessed with documenting our childhood, which I praise them for. We have shelves of VHS tapes and shoe boxes full of photographs and negatives from my youth. My dad always had a video camera on his shoulder and a point and shoot around his neck. I remember being in elementary school and shooting tons of disposable cameras that I took with me everywhere. I still have all of those images tucked away somewhere in my closet. What really attracted me to film was in high school when I took a film photography class and fell in love with the process of shooting black and white film and developing negatives and prints. High school was also my first encounter with an SLR camera.
Do you have a favorite film and camera combo?
Not necessarily one favorite combo, but I know which of my cameras will yield good results when using certain films. My Canon AE-1 is literally my one and only though; no matter what the film I have loaded, the images will always be amazing. I recently bought some Kodak Portra and Ektar film, which I have never used before, so I’m stoked to see the results of them.
A few months back I asked to do this interview with you but gracefully declined. What’s has changed for you as a photographer in those months since?
At the time, I was still figuring out what I wanted my photography to portray. I didn’t have an idea of what kind of images I was trying to produce, I was just shooting. From then to now, I feel my work is starting to depict my own style and evolving into different series.
I have enjoyed the recent work you have published on IG that features liquor storefronts. Why did you start shooting those? What is there significance to you photographically?
Hunting for liquor stores has led me to places all over. Details like the hue of the building during the day and bright lights at night are something that bring me nostalgia. The very first liquor store shot I took was on a rainy night and the colors reflecting off the wet concrete came out amazing. Visually, the neon lights caught my attention right off the bat. But then these liquor store photographs started to become more of myself trying to preserve this very moment in history. The prices of cigarettes and beer are constantly changing, and small businesses are always closing, and taking photographs of these storefronts were my way of keeping some type of record of it.
How has the city of Long Beach influenced your photography work? Does it play a role in your photography?
Long Beach is a melting pot of cultural diversity and art, and unless you live here, I don’t think it is easy to look past the ocean and the “ghetto”. It has played a huge role in my photography and has shown me the natural beauty any city can offer. I look for inspiration by walking up and down the streets, driving through alleyways, taking photographs of graffiti and palm trees. All of these remind me of home, so when I’m not in my city, my eyes naturally gravitate towards similar subjects.
Thanks to Alyssa for doing this interview. Follow her on Instagram @_acruiz and keep up with work.