He may have played Kipland Ronald Dynamite (Kip) in Napoleon Dynamite, but Californian photographer Aaron Ruell is much more comfortable behind the camera. We interviewed him recently: You’re an actor, filmmaker, and photographer. Is there a continuous theme or tone in your work across these mediums? ‘I think there is a connection between my photography and what I do in film as a director. I notice a similar tone between the two. I’m not sure that I set out for consistency between the two, it just happens. I still have issues with calling myself an “actor”. I’ve only done two films, and it’s not something that I’m out there actively pursuing. Those projects just happen to find me, so I can’t say that there’s a connection there’.
With regards to photography, how much planning do you do before a shoot and how much do you leave to chance?
‘Most all of my portrait work is very contrived. Most of the backdrops are sets that are built. Wardrobe has been chosen for the models, and most of my models have been cast. So it’s all very much planned out prior to shooting.
‘As for my still life work, most of that is all shot on found locations. so it’s the opposite of what my portrait work is, but yet I still feel as if both my still life work and my portrait work live really well side by side, and it goes back to having a consistent tone in the work’.
What is your favorite prop?
‘I find that I’m drawn to clocks in my work’.
Who are your subjects and what are you looking for when deciding on someone to photograph?
Most of my subjects are cast. Some are friends or family. My images usually start with either a face that I’ve seen, and then I’ll attempt to build an environment around that face that feels believable and interesting to me. Or, an image will start with a prop, and I’ll attempt to build an environment that it would live in, and casting becomes another piece of the puzzle, but it fits later in the game rather than at the beginning’.
What are your inspirations?
‘Music is my biggest inspiration. Whether it’s listening to a band at home, in the car, or seeing them live, music is usually the spark that puts an image in my mind and makes me want to capture that image or feeling on film’.