Ruud van Ruitenbeek
My father was a keen amateur photographer and taking photos and watching slide projection were part of family life. He taught me the basics of photography when I was about 12 and I have been taking photographs ever since. I remember my joy at getting my first camera. It was a Lubitel 2, a Russian twin lens reflex camera that cost about 5 pounds in 1968. With the help of this 6x6 medium format camera, which was totally manual of course, no batteries involved, I acquired some basic knowledge of aperture, shutter speeds, depth of field, etc. My father taught me some rules regarding composition, the one I remember best is "always have something in the foreground of a landscape that gives the viewer a sense of proportion." I also remember learning that photography had everything to do with light. It creates images, but it can also destroy them, something I was made very aware of in the improvised darkroom when my father carefully covered all the little cracks through which light might spill in. Over the years I have learned a lot more about photography, one of the important things being that you should not be too afraid to break the rules!
From the Lubitel 2 I upgraded to my first SLR: an Asahi Pentax Spotmatic-F. Fifteen years later followed the change to Canon: an EOS 10 followed by a 10D, 5D and 5D Mk II. I sometimes miss the feeling of excitement and anticipation of watching an image slowly appear on the paper floating in the developer tray, but I am totally converted, in all senses of the word, to the digital format. The amount of control I now have over an image allows me to produce images that were not possible before. Another important advantage is not having to spend a lot of money on buying films and developing them.
I like images that tell a story. The most interesting ones, I find, are those that can tell many stories at the same time. Some of these stories can be true, but none need to be. I want to invite the viewer to think about my images, wander into them, and make up their own stories. As can be seen from my work, I also like symmetry and rhythm in pictures. With my photography I try to surprise; to engage the viewer and make them see beauty where it is not expected. The joy of pointing out the beauty that we normally walk past in our daily lives is what inspires me to create images. We are thinking of our work, of the day's hard graft, a myriad of different worries occupies our minds, we feel we have not got time to stand still and explore these the beauty of places, discarded items, patterns, colours. And yet, if we give ourselves that time, if we take it back, we can be enriched by what we see. As a photographer I try do this, see beauty in places where it is not expected and I really enjoy sharing this with others. This is the reason why I don't just create images for myself: I want to share the beauty that is out there, ready to be enjoyed.
Travelling is another of my passions. It helps me to find new subject material. I was in the fortunate position of doing some travel for work and combined business trips with my love of photography as much as possible. So, apart from the North West of England, where I made my home about 20 years ago, I have seen a few bits of the world, but fortunately there is a lot more to explore. Being able to observe and participate in other cultures (something I had to do after moving to the UK as well!) gives me a useful perspective on what could easily be dismissed by some as just 'strange' or even 'inferior'.
In 2010 I gave up the day job and now try to make a bit of money selling my images and running workshops for people who want to become better photographers. Drop me a line if you are ever in the north west of England, I would love to show you some of the great opportunities for photography that can be found here (and maybe we can share a glass of malt whisky or wine)!