Interview with Brandon Ruffin
By: Rachelle Blaisdell
Brandon Ruffin is an Oakland based photographer. He was born in San Francisco in the 80's and has always had a love for art. In his early days he experimented and developed his skills in a multitude of various mediums. Eventually his love for art stretched out to the world of digital art and photography. Brandon's latest series featured at Maker's Loft "Beauty In The Struggle," celebrates the everyday moments that are often over looked within communities of color.
"Beauty In The Struggle" is having an opening night held Friday April. 7th 2017 at Maker's Loft 308 13th Street Oakland CA.
What inspired you to get into photography?
I have always been interested in storytelling and I love the way the camera empowers you to do that.There is so much that can be conveyed through photography and that individual can interpret their version of a story.
Who and what are your go to sources of inspiration for photography?
In “Everyday life,” there is always something happening right in front. Sometimes it's the entire city moving around in a frame. Sometimes it's a pair of shoes that have been discarded by a dumpster. If you look hard enough there is an interesting story in front of you and for me that is inspiring.
What are the three words that best describe your “Beauty In The Struggle” series?
Love, pain, and life.
In “Beauty In The Struggle,” which piece held the most significance for you?
"My daughter likes to take pictures" is my favorite. I took that photo while documenting in West Oakland one day. I saw that woman and explained that I was a photographer and that I wanted to take a portrait of her. At first she didn't want me to take the picture. She told me her daughter was down the block and loved taking pictures. After chatting with her for a bit more she allowed me to photograph her. I remember getting back home to review the image and so much of her story was in the shot--it is hard to explain but you truly see her in the portrait and that was an example of meaningful photography.
What are your biggest goals for the year?
To travel and document overlooked communities all over the world. Publish a book of my work and finish a film.
What inspired you to get into painting?
I started painting pretty young 4th or 5th grade. As the years went on I really got into graffiti and painting in more untraditional mediums. I have always enjoyed how much of yourself can go into something with paint.
We heard you use to make music. Can you tell us a little more about that?
I'm signed to the label Alpha Pup in Los Angeles--honestly, being involved with that label and the people making music in that world have been one of my driving forces creatively. I released an album in 2015 called, “Illusion Fracture” that I am very proud of. Im also the co-founder of an aspiring group of collective musicians called, Rootnote. Music has always and will always be a love of mine and I can't create without it. I have some unreleased music that I have been working on a keeping very close to me.
If you had to only pick one album to create to, what would it be?
What are your favorite and most challenging things about being a father?
I love just watching my daughter grow into her own person. There is no love I have ever felt that compares to being a parent. One of the biggest challenges is time. When you are a parent your kid should be your top priority as well as investing the time in them that they need. My wife and I can be insanely busy, but together we usually figure out a way to make it work though it may be difficult.
In what ways does your wife support you as a photographer and an artist that you appreciate most?
Honestly she is amazing, I couldn't do what I do without her. She keeps things organized and together and she is creative herself. I can always rely on having a valued opinion outside of my own close by. She is an amazing writer, her stories and ideas give me a different perspective as I go out into the street looking for stories to capture.
What are you trying to communicate with your art?
Mainly emotion. I want to capture the energy, the beauty, the tragedy, the love, and hate that exist out there on the street. A huge focus of mine is doing that in communities of color. I often feel like those communities are often overlooked or exploited. I want to make sure that there is a well-rounded and genuine documentation of those communities. Growing up in Richmond I saw and experienced a lot of things that were horrible, but I also was surrounded by love. I had amazing childhood memories and witnessed the beauty and compassion of that city. I feel like those stories exist in neighborhoods like mine and all over the world.
What is integral to the work of an artist?
What made you choose Maker's Loft as one of the first gallery spaces to feature your work?
I have known you (Rachelle Blaisdell, owner of Maker's Loft) for a while and I have always loved your commitment to bringing art to the community. I had been to a few shows at Maker's Loft and I loved the energy here. It's such a well done and intimate space and I feel like you can really create an experience for people to walk inside of.
What themes would you like to pursue in the future?
I would love to continue photographing people in candid situations. I would really love to do a series working with models of color and recreating some classic fashion editorial covers from the 50' and 60's. I would also love to tour the world taking photos inside the day to day of "rough" neighborhoods.
Finally, what is the role of the artist in society?
The artist has a huge role and responsibility in society. Historically art survives much longer than the people who created it or inspired it. It also can speak volumes and convey very complex ideas quickly. I also think art makes us look inside of ourselves in a way the other things can't.