Rinzi Ruiz is a freelance photographer based in Los Angeles, California. He originally studied graphic design and computer animation at the Art Institute of Los Angeles but after 12 years in the design industry found a passion for photography and made the switch. He is now known for his street photography and urban photography with his focus on light and shadow and the human condition. Rinzi was a featured photographer in the LA Times Framework and has had various photographs featured in the LA Times SoCal Moments. He has also been featured in Light It Magazine, The Candid Frame Podcast, Inspired Eye Magazine, Art Photo Feature, Fotoflock by Epson and Backyard Opera. His work has been exhibited at the Hatakeyama Gallery and The Think Tank Gallery. His work was published in Arte Fotográfica Magazine and Eloquence International Creators Magazine. His rapid development as a photographer is informed from a commitment to make time for his art, as well as developing a critical eye for what works and what doesn't. Inspired by both contemporary and master photographers, his understanding of the tradition of photography is helping him to develop a distinct voice.
Infused with noirish customs, Rinzi Ruiz’s LA portraits highlight lonesome flecks of moody seclusion. In many ways, they’re somber reminders of lockdown life
Borrowing from the gloomy patina of Renaissance paintings, a dramatic contrast of light and darkness (or chiaroscuro, as it would become known) defined the so-called ‘film noirs’ of post-war America. Personifying an era with slanted angles and exaggerated shadows, the genre established a harsh look, typifying the fallout of wide-reaching conflict and widespread disillusionment.
Following the fallout of COVID-19, such sentiments have – perhaps inevitably – begun to permeate public consciousness once more. Traversing the effects of the last two years is something we’re all contending with, and in many ways, the language of noir couldn’t be more suited to this watershed moment.
Working with X-T5, Rinzi Ruiz recently embarked on his own creative excursions, adopting such vernacular. Known for his arresting black & white street snaps, the birthplace of the ‘dark film’ provided ample creative encouragement, and an ideal backdrop.
“When it comes to making images, I just love the way the light falls out here. The slightest alterations can produce the most amazing results.
“I think it’s subconscious. It connects to the mentality I was experiencing. In this instance, the photos speak to that solitude, particularly within the context of the pandemic,” he explains.
For most of his schedule, Rinzi works alone, seldom employing assistants or aides. At present, he also acts as primary caregiver for his aging father, balancing familial commitments with the pressures of an intensive career.
The demands may prove challenging, but Rinzi has learnt to lean into his photography, using it as a therapeutic tool for externalizing emotion.
“I try to get everything out, so it doesn’t fester inside,” he explains. “I think that’s important – to let go of those parts of yourself.”
The darkness is self-evident. Dwarfed by sparse concrete structures, subjects are silhouetted in lonely pockets of dimness, frozen in hurried postures and contemplative poses.
Like the drunken gumshoes of dusky urban fables, Rinzi’s unknown subjects could be read as projections of the current zeitgeist – faceless avatars that exemplify what we all felt during lockdown. In another way, they also represent intimate reflections of the creator’s headspace, first-hand.
“I timed all these shots very deliberately. Balancing several aspects of my life at once meant I was somewhat rushed and frantic. Maybe that’s why I chose to showcase haste.”
Drawing on DeCarava, Metzker and Kertész, Rinzi’s black & white stylings epitomize his initial fascination with the medium – the simplicity of shadow and contrast making for poignant, uncomplicated snapshots of raw city life.
“Black & white creates depth and separation. The light illuminates what you want people to look at, and the shadows hide everything else – the distractions,” he says.
“When I first started out, I didn’t have an electronic viewfinder to see the way I wanted to, so I experimented.
“Eventually, I realized certain techniques would facilitate my aims. At 1/500 sec, I could freeze motion – ISO 200 helped with the LA light. It was an arduous process of trial and error, but I still use both those tricks today.”
A long-time Fujifilm champion, Rinzi started out with the X100, before eventually switching over to X-Ts. Five models later, he’s keen to express the ways in which the camera has developed in tandem with his abilities.
“X-T5 is the perfect refinement of everything that’s come before. I like to think of myself in the same way!” he chuckles.
“The new build fits perfectly in my hands. I love the new shape. Out on the street, you need to be able to concentrate as quickly as possible, and not lose the moment. Here, autofocus is super-fast. Eye, face and object detection are also massively helpful. It works like a charm.”
In his seminal 1972 essay Notes on Film Noir, writer/director Paul Schrader characterized the genre as having an ‘almost Freudian’ attachment to water. ‘Even in Los Angeles, the empty streets are almost always glistening with fresh evening rain,’ he observed.
In a remarkable, low-angle replication of this idea, Rinzi documents early morning puddles with a fantastically reflective illustration. In this instance, the adjustable, pop-out LCD made stunning compositions a much simpler undertaking.
“That screen is just superb. The whole lot feels more magnified. The LCD allows you to get really low, and still be able to see everything. That benefits your scope.”
Using FUJINON XF33mmF1.4 R LM WR, XF50mmF2 R WR and XF56mmF1.2 R WR, Rinzi’s lens choices are purposeful preferences. Rather than adopting a spacious, expansive canvas, his images fragment carefully chosen facets of the frame, interrogating their happenings in gorgeously clear streaks.
“This glass is excellent for the street. I adore compression. Longer focal lengths enable me to choose a specific part of the scene to compose with. The 40 megapixels give you so much detail and depth in those moments.”
Exposing for highlights, a sizable quantity of these pictures are taken from rooftops and elevated surfaces, allowing for a more extensive assortment of light pockets. In one, the iconic stars of Hollywood Boulevard can be seen in subdued grays, a self-aware nod to customs that inadvertently shaped the appearance of this project.
“Higher angles give you an entirely new perspective. In LA, it’s rare to see from this standpoint. I’m looking for a space to perch and observe. I think I saw myself in some of these people… in a sense, they mirrored my energy.”
They may be unaware of his gaze, but notions of commonality and reflection are key to grasping Rinzi’s profoundly human portraits. Finding solidarity with strangers may have proved unusual in years gone by, but from the outset of this unifying disease, an extraordinary state of affairs brought important messages into sharp focus. One, in particular, weighs on this photographer’s mind.
“I’m learning to reach out for help, and not get worn down by what I do. By the same token, I try not to overthink my approach too much.
“I rely on my experiences, and let that dictate where the lens falls. In the end, I go wherever those feelings lead me.”