Some kids dream about running away and joining the circus. If Ginger Griep-Ruiz ever had the urge she didn't have got run far. Her parents were circus performers (her father was a sword swallower), they also ran a circus school, and Ginger herself began performing when she was about three. "People walking around in crazy costumes was normal to me."
Around the time she turned 16 she began taking stock of her life and decided to put everything she had into performing. She gave it her best and in due time earned a spot as a solo aerialist with the world-famous Cirque Du Soleil.
As for photography, it was always a part of her life. Her parents had a 110 camera, but she was the one who used it most. "You could tell because most of our family photos the pictures were taken looking upwards and I'm hardly in any of them. I always had a camera. No matter where I was I had some form of a camera and was known for making little videos of the shows I worked on.”
In 2008, while on hiatus between shows she joined some friends in Mexico where she had an epiphany. A friend was changing lenses on her camera and when Ginger heard the 'click' sound something 'clicked' inside her too. "I realized I had to have one of those... I needed a camera", and she vowed to learn everything she could about photography and lighting. Just as she took on performance art with a vengeance, so too photography.
The next show she performed in took her to Tokyo where she lived for a time. Early on she found herself alone in a foreign land where everyone spoke in a foreign tongue. To crack the cultural ice and learn about more about her new home she purchased a Canon 40D with a kit zoom and began exploring the streets.
Never one to set things to 'Auto', Ginger kept the camera in Manual and began learning the limits of what she could and could not do with her new camera. The only time she didn't have her camera within arm's reach was when she was in rehearsals or on stage. To fill in the gaps of what she couldn't figure out on her own she enrolled in a 'Photo 101' class she found online. Before long she was capturing strong imagery both out on the streets and backstage when she wasn't performing on stage.
While in Tokyo she was fortunate enough to cross paths with Alfie Goodrich, a local Brittish photographer who taught her how to use speedlights along with photo tips and words of encouragement.
Life took a sudden turn when Mother Nature, in the form of an earthquake and a tsunami, uprooted Ginger, her husband, and newborn baby, who packed up and resettled in Las Vegas, Nevada - a place they now call home.
Before the last of the bags we're unpacked she began researching schools in the area that offered photography and lighting courses. The College of Southern Nevada fit the bill. She's since discovered the power of lighting and the difference it makes in creating strong imagery.
When she first enrolled at CSN she had no idea what to expect. Luckily the staff and faculty of the school proved to be unbelievably supportive and knowledgeable. “I consider myself really lucky to have stumbled into CSN’s commercial photography program and extremely grateful to be able to study with such a high caliber of creative professionals. This is a gem of a program!”
Ginger has a trained eye. Heavily influenced by theatrical lighting, she understands and respects the interactions of lighting and composition when working behind a camera. She is also strong in more than one genre of subject matter, and she approaches each with equal skill and insight.
Having used many lighting systems her personal favorite now is hands-down the Profoto B1 system, which she cannot say enough about. She fell in love with the system and has since purchased a system of her own.
"I was immediately blown away by how easy it was to use. I can take it anywhere and handle it myself when I have to. I don't need sandbags - wind's never a factor, and because they're so small they don't draw as much attention.”
As for light modifiers, Ginger's current favorites are the Profoto OFC Beauty Dish Silver and Profoto OFC Grid Kit. She's also toyed with the Profoto Softbox Octa for select projects. "My second light is the sun, which I love using as a backlight when I'm shooting outdoors."
Ginger Griep-Ruiz is a big believer in composing photographs in-camera. Her influencers include street photographer Muhammed Muheisen, Abelardo Morell ("He's brilliant"), Howard Schatz, whose influence is whimsically apparent in her work, Lindsey Adler ("Lindsey's amazingly generous with her knowledge - she's a true master."), Mary Ellen Matthews, Garry Winogrand, Steven Shore, and her favorite “one light wonder” - Zack Arias.
Ginger's goal for now is to continue learning and playing in order to develop a style of her own. Having succeeded as a performer she's had numerous opportunities to enjoy the spotlight. “I absolutely loved performing for Cirque and the feeling of taking the audience for a ride with me. I am incredibly blessed to have lived that and hope those who saw me remember my act fondly - I put my whole heart into it for many years.”
Photography is something Ginger's approaching from a more personal perspective. This time the audience is herself - she's one who needs to 'get her money's worth' when looking back on the day's accomplishments. Something else she appreciates about photography is that it has no time limitations. "Let's face it - There's a limited number of people who will pay to see me doing splits when I'm 70. Photography doesn't have age limitations.”
Something Ginger relishes about photography is its place in time and memory. “Unlike my act that becomes a memory, the photo lasts forever. I pushed a lot of limits in my career on stage with my use of technology and level of tricks, the hard part about pushing limits in circus is once you do it, you have to keep doing it every show…forever. And over time that becomes very taxing. Photography on the other hand, you can do all kinds of crazy things because you just have to get the shot once.”
Having lived a full life at a relatively tender age Ginger approaches photography from a self-satisfied, mature perspective. For now, she wants to continue pushing herself to see how far she can take her craft, and if sometime in the future she can hang a show that people will come to, view, and savor, and yes – purchase a print or two, she will have attained the same degree of self-satisfaction she received when she performed in a world-renowned performance troupe. This isn’t to say she wouldn’t mind reaching a point where she can be recognized as an established commercial/editorial photographer with an agent and assistants, the whole thing.
Commercial success aside, she hopes to be able to make strong personal connections in her new career path. “One of the aspects of the circus I love so much is that I was able to traveled extensively and work among people who were the best in the world at what they did. I hope I’m able to find that adventure, expertise and camaraderie in the world of photography.”