Born in San Francisco, Stefan Ruiz studied painting and sculpture in Santa Cruz before going to Italy to study painting for a year at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice. Soon after graduating, he travelled to West Africa to document Islam’s influence on traditional West African art, and it was at this point that he began specialising in photography as a medium, applying his experience as a painter to his photographic work.
On returning to California, an exhibition of Ruiz’s photographs taken in Africa lead to a grant from the Colour Purple Scholarship Foundation, which gave him a chance to pursue his independent work. Also around this time, he began teaching art to inmates, including those on death row, at San Quentin State Prison and getting involved in commercial projects, which mainly consisted of shooting portraits for magazine.
Now in his 12th year as a professional photographer, Ruiz has been Creative Director at Colors Magazine and has exhibited his work at the Havana Biennale (2003), PhotoEspana, Madrid (2003) and at Howard Greenberg Gallery, Tokyo (2000). An exhibition of his work also toured Europe in 2005.
In 2006, a book of his work titled People was published in the US. An amalgamation of portraits and social landscapes photographed by Ruiz between 2001 and 2006, the publication was described as a photo essay that establishes Ruiz as a key contemporary image maker. Hotshoe Magazine said of his work in the book:” Taking the form of a mixture of portraits, landscapes and interiors, [Ruiz’s] images uncover a global social landscape constantly in flux”.
This image of a Billboard on the Pan Americana Highway was taken by Ruiz during an assignment in Lima, Peru, in 2006 where he documented the architecture and inhabitants of the city for a 12 page story.