Eric Ruby San Fransisco, USA
Eric Ruby is a Artist currently based in San Francisco, California. He recieved his MFA in photography from Massachusetts College of Art in
2014 and his BFA from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2009. He is part of a publishing collective called Houseboat Press which produces
artist books and trade editions.
Eric Ruby was chosen by Josh Poehlein
Laatikkomo’s interview with Eric Ruby January 26th, 2015
L: Where are you from? What cities, and/or countries have you lived in – or what places have influenced you?
ER: I grew up in the suburbs of Hartford, Connecticut where shade tobacco has turned into subdivisions. I’ve also lived in Rochester, New York, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Somerville, Massachusetts, and I now live in San Francisco, California. I’ve gotten around. In terms of influences, I try to live in neighborhoods that are visually interesting so I can constantly be working, but I also travel a fair amount to see what’s to be seen.
L: What is your earliest memory of photography?
ER: Can’t say that I remember my earliest memory of photography, but my introduction to photography was the opposite of most photographers’ romantic stories of their first camera. In my case, my name was drawn out of a hat in my 6th grade homeroom to see who would be in a photography exhibition at the local mall. Being chosen, I got a disposable camera and made some drug store prints for my first show.
L: Colour is the first thing you notice when visiting your website, where the background is in constant flux of solid colour. But colour also plays an important role in your work in a different way; specific attention has been given to vibrant accents of colour which often reoccur throughout a series. Is colour, or a specific colour the driving force behind your images?
ER: Color is extremely important to my work; it has a remarkable way of controlling the mood of a photograph as well as what emotions a photograph can evoke from the viewer. I try to use that to my advantage, specifically when compiling groups of pictures. The group as a whole can have wildly varied subject matter, but the color palette can tie the pictures together in a way that would otherwise be imperceptible. Also, in books and wall pieces, I try and play with how color and material can change the reading of an image, whether it is contrasting or analogous can vary the mood and connection between photographs.
L: Reviews of your work have described your images as being America. How do you feel about this interpretation? Could your images be from anywhere else?
ER: I feel like that’s a de facto interpretation, since I live in America, the photographs are then American. I think that the pictures I end up using are dissociated from place for the most part. Perhaps that is because I’m too close to the photographs, or because I don’t want them to exist as a specific record. In my mind the pictures are more fictitious. As for being from somewhere else, I’m not really sure, but I am sure that my cultural perspective would probably exist no matter where the pictures are made.
L: Each series of photographs includes a variety of different kinds of photographs, with different focuses, compositions and subject matter. It seems there is a specific narrative behind the series, but apart from that narrative, how do you compose a series or decide which images/kinds of images are included?
ER:I approach the editing process fairly intuitively, no matter what the pictures are of. The specific narrative is formed through that process. At first, I try to pick key pictures that form the initial themes of the series, and then try to build off of that. Most of the decisions can seem arbitrary at times, but they end up influencing other groupings of pictures in the same series. On the whole, it’s a reactionary process of whether or not it feels “right” to me.
L: The titles of your work allude to literature/word play and you are also part of a publishing company collective. Do you seek inspiration from the written word?
ER: I probably don’t read as much as I should, but I do love how language can co-exist with photography and suggest an alternate context. Adding a title can severely influence how a group of pictures is read, but also using word play complicates that relationship, and causes the viewer to possibly question the images as some sort of riddle as well. Language exists in multitudes, but I particularly like the visual elements of written language. Similar to photography, text can have style that connotes expressive meaning. A lot of the text that I end up using is found while out in the world photographing, and it seems only natural that those things should go together. On the publishing side, the majority of our books are stripped of text and we try and make the images function without the context being explicitly given.
L: Is the body of your work telling a specific story where the series are chapters?
ER: I don’t consider the series existing as chapters, on the contrary, I see the series as distinctly autonomous (although I might be the only one). Certain pictures work themselves together whether it’s from time frame of when they were made, or the constraints of a book. It can be hard to imagine them shifting to a different series, but I wouldn’t rule it out. As I stated earlier, there are applied fictions to each series, which are hard to separate once they are bonded together. Also, within my photographing practice I rarely find that I’m trying to tell a specific story, or want to for that matter, but all the pictures are undoubtedly connected by my own visual tendencies and style that can be problematic to differentiate from series to series.
L: On your website there is one section of portraits where you are the subject, photographed by many different artists. Is this also one of your own on-going projects? How does this experience of being the subject inform the portraits you make?
ER: I would consider this less of a project and more of a collection. Originally, I just wanted to have links to friend’s websites and thought it would be fun to have a sort of sample of their work. After a while it became more of a challenge to have people make their version of a portrait of me. People used to ask to photograph me, but it’s been a couple years since anyone has done so… Being the subject just shows you how smooth or potentially painful making a portrait can be, I try to err on the smoother side of the spectrum, although sometimes a strenuous experience for the subject can make for an interesting photograph.
L: Could you list 5 (or more) words that you were thinking about when you made this work (shown in Laatikkomo)?
ER: Future, Past, Omen, Orwellian, Guise
Thank you so much Eric!