Anyone who has even tangentially come in touch with the LGBTQ+ community on a regular basis has likely had at least some exposure to imagery related to the leather community. Now, that community finds itself at the center of the lenses of Mike Ruiz's cameras.
Known for his appearances on America's and Canada's Next Top Model as well as RuPaul's Drag Race, celebrity and fashion photographer Mike Ruiz has been recently been shooting a new series titled The Leather Men. It features men (and women) of the leather and BDSM community, generally in their gear.
"It's about a community of men who form a very strong brotherhood with a rich history rooted in community service and inclusion dating back to the 60s," Ruiz said in a release. "The more I learned, the more I wanted to know. I figured the only way to get an accurate account was to go to the sources.
The images are results of an open call in late 2021 as well as shoots at events like Mid Atlantic Leather. As he releases the images, mostly on social media, he also occasionally releases quotes from the subjects.
"There is a ritualistic side of donning your gear, and the respect you place on it, that makes me want to show that respect every time I step out the door," Cody Troy, who appears in the series, said. "For me, leather isn't just a look, a piece of clothing, or a fetish, but a way of life that has profoundly changed mine."
Ruiz intends to create a book from the project. On June 5th, 2022, he will release a NFT drop of 100 portraits in conjunction with David Cash of Cash Labs.
This summer, the work will be exhibited at Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago, the TOM House in Los Angeles, and The Academy Social Club in San Francisco.