In this interview street photographer Rinzi Ruiz talks about photography as a meditative exercise. He calls it „street zen“. Rinzi says: „Photography can change our minds, our emotions and many other things.“

When he found himself in a creative slump and stressed out working as an art director, street photography helped Rinzi to re-connect with the artist inside of him. He says: „I felt that over the years I had lost of part of myself, going up as a creative person. Basically, I was losing myself to the corporate life. I needed to find something to bring back my creativity.“

Walking around taking pictures not only made Rinzi grow as an artist, it also helped him to deal with stress and opened his eyes to what was happening around him.

Since then the love to explore the world through the viewfinder of his camera has never stopped.

Asked for his „why“ in photography, Rinzi replies:

„One of the goals of a being a photographer is creating a photograph that means something. An image that people can relate to, or that can produce an emotion when somebody sees it.“

Besides talking about the meaning of street zen and the transformative power of photography, we do some storytelling with four of Rinzi’s images.

The story behind the image

Street Photographer Rinzi Ruiz und das Konzept Street Zen: Die Silhouette eines Mannes auf den Sraßen von Los Angeles
@ Rinzi Ruiz

„As a photographer it’s so important to be able to see that quality of light.“

„One thing I learnt early on about photography is the importance of light. The works of Ray K. Metkger come to mind. He was one of the main people that inspired me, as well as Roy DeCarava.

I literally walked around for a year practicing to see the light better.

This is a good example from that time. This is what I wanted to focus on and really be able to distinguish and learn what types of qualities of light I wanted to work with. As a photographer it’s so important to be able to see that quality of light.

I don’t do a lot of silhouette type of shots. But this is one of the ones that helped me to produce images that are graphically striking.

My photos were ok before, but once I started to focus on studying light I never looked back – I just kept going and got even more excited about what I was doing. I had a goal – and kept shooting.

This is one of the results.“

Street Photographer Rinzi Ruiz und das Konzept Street Zen: Ein Mann liest eine Zeitung und benutzt dafür eine dicke Lupe
@ Rinzi Ruiz

„He reminded me of a mignon, the cartoon character, as far as the face goes and where the magnifying glass was in it.“

„It’s the famous Starbucks on Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles.

There’s a big mural across the street. You can’t miss it. If you take a picture in that area you are likely to get a piece of that mural in your shot.

I had just gotten the 90mm XF from Fuji and wanted to test it out and didn’t have anybody to take portraits of. So I tested it out on the streets.

I took about five or six images of this gentleman with his magnifying glass from a few different angles. But this is the one I like the best – compositionally and it told a better story of what he was doing. He reminded me of a mignon, the cartoon character, as far as the face goes and where the magnifying glass was in it.

I had never before seen anybody with that kind of magnifying glass working on something. So it made for a very interesting photograph.“

Street Photographer Rinzi Ruiz und das Konzept Street Zen: Ein Straßenmusiker spielt die Trompete auf den Straßen von Downtown Los Angeles
@ Rinzi Ruiz

„I don’t do a lot of street portraiture. But when it happens, it happens organically.“

„This is an example of some of the kind of street portraiture that I do. It also involves focusing on light.

This gentleman happened to play his music exactly where the light was happening. The light on him was amazing. And the fact that it falls right on his fingers really did it for me.

I made eye contact with him, showed my camera and he nodded. So I took a bunch of pictures of him. Probably two or three minutes.

I don’t do a whole lot of street portraiture in the sense of stopping somebody and talking to them. But when it happens, it happens organically. There has to be an attraction. I have to feel compelled to take a picture of them.

I either approach them and start a conversation or they approach me. Then while we are talking I lift up the camera and start taking pictures.

It has to be an interesting person. Because usually I’m in a zone. But every now and then I notice somebody in a position where the light is hitting them really well or they are a character within themselves. Then I say: ‚Ok, I have to take this picture.‘ I either approach them non-verbally, just showing my camera, or ask them directly for permission.

„Most people don’t want confrontation, for example. So if you are taking pictures of them, they are not going to yell at you right away.“

I sometimes show them the photo afterwards. One time somebody said: ‚That’s probably the best photo anyone has ever taken of me. That gave me some thought. There are a lot of people walking around that don’t have a lot of pictures taken of them or they have such a low self-esteem that they don’t like having pictures taken of them.

That ties in with a lot of things I’ve been observing about human nature. When you walk around enough you start to notice things about different people and also a generalization of most people.

Most people don’t want confrontation, for example. So, if you are taking pictures of them, they are not going to yell at you right away. It’s usually a certain type that will. And it’s maybe they are not on medication. (laughs) Or they are already aggressive to begin with.“

Street Photographer Rinzi Ruiz und das Konzept Street Zen: Licht und Schatten auf dem Hut eines Mannes
@ Rinzi Ruiz

„I wish people would dress up a lot better these days.“

„Just the hat. A very simple light-and-shadow-situation.

Looking at pictures from the Forties or Fifties, everybody is wearing a fedora and it just makes for a good photo. I love the style of it – it’s very noir.

This is a good example of my work that involves a fedora.

I wish people would dress up a lot better these days. Some people still do though and I make it a goal to find them.

Especially in downtown L.A. in certain areas where the older buildings are, aesthetically the person dressed in an interesting way mixed with the background can present a photo that seems a bit timeless. I attempt to produce work that has that feeling to it. It could have been shot today, or years ago. That doesn’t really matter.

It makes for a challenge for all of us walking around in the streets taking pictures to find people who are still doing something other than talking on their mobile phone. Our eyes can basically cancel out all these people and focus on those who are still active in life.“

More information about Rinzi Ruiz


Street Photographer Rinzi Ruiz talks about photography as a meditative practice and explains what the term street zen means.Rinzi Ruiz is a street photographer based in Glendale, California.

At a young age, he started out drawing and painting.

Later on in 2008 he slowly moved away from fine arts and developed a passion for photography.

Taking pictures serves him as form of meditative practice – or „Street Zen“ as he calls it.

He worked as a graphic designer until he finally decided to build a fulltime-career around photography.

Rinzi is an official Fuji-X-Photographer. Besides roaming the streets of L.A. and other cities around the world shooting street photography, he does commercial work at weddings and corporate events. He also teaches street photography workshops.

Follow Rinzi on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Listen to more episodes in English on the Gate7-podcast. For example the conversation with Valerie Jardin about the creative vision behind the lens.

Also: RE Casper („StreetPX: „The Street Is Like A Theater“) and Dimitris Makrygiannakis („Remembering Life Through Photography“).

If you liked the interview, please leave me a short review or rating on iTunes. Your feedback helps to make the show more visible in the rankings and thus easier to be found by other potential listeners. Thank you very much for spreading the word!

Hat dir die Show gefallen? Wenn ja, dann würde ich mich sehr freuen, wenn du mir eine Rezension des Gate7 Podcasts auf iTunes hinterlässt. Ehrliche Bewertungen helfen mir dabei, die Sendung stetig zu verbessern und bei iTunes leichter gefunden zu werden.

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