We had the good fortune of connecting with Ruby Velez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ruby, what habits do you feel helped you succeed?
I think what’s helped me the most is, for lack of a better word, networking. Through keeping up with creative friends and seeking opportunities to collaborate when I can, I’ve cemented my role more in the Tucson arts community. Portraiture photography is a collaborative medium, and I always take the opportunity to work with new models and other photographers (when we’re not in a pandemic). The way I connected with Carnegiea Magazine was by keeping up with Sharmila Dey, one of the founders, about the goings-on at the magazine until I eventually joined. Additionally, I have a habit of sorting through my photo archives and trying out new editing styles with old photos, a process which has helped my style grow as a photographer.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
In the past year or so, I’ve began focusing less on professional growth rather than my own advancement as a creative. I used to prioritize professional advancement and trying to work with local businesses, but I realized that I was always trying to prove myself as a decent photographer, as my work was perceived as less valuable coming from a young latinx woman. I think that abandoning my attempts to fit into such creatively stifling spaces has fueled my individual growth. Recently, I’ve gotten inspiration from strong female creators and writers like Adrienne Rich, Carrie Mae Weems, Nan Goldin, and many female led bands. One ongoing personal project I’m excited about is a self portrait study focused on the female existence contextualized in breaking away from the male gaze that’s so prominent in visual art mediums. On the topic of using art as a tool for activism, I’ve recently launched a charity print sale with Carnegiea Magazine, in which 100% of the proceeds from local art prints goes to the humanitarian aid organization No More Deaths. Centering my art around activism and individual growth has granted my photography another layer of depth and power.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Tucson is full of interesting places, and I’ve made it a sort of life goal to discover all the local coffee shops. I’d say Black Crown is a Tucson essential – you can’t find anything else like it, but you’d also have to stop at Cafe Lucé for one of the best lattes in town. Head to their University location to see the 10-foot-tall clown painting that haunts my subconscious. Antigone books is another must-have with their diverse collection and local work. Also, I’d have to take a friend to Hurricane Records on 4th Avenue to pick up some CDs. The owner, Richard, can tell you all about local bands back to the 90s. Oh, and my favorite food truck in town is often at Stone and Prince- Angela’s Mexican food truck has arguably the best carne asada tacos in Tucson.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I definitely have to shoutout my sister, Carmelita Levin, for helping me grow as a photographer. She’s been doing photography for much longer than I have, and doing constant photoshoots with her over the summer was really what made me comfortable behind and in front of the camera. Also, I owe a lot to Sharmila Dey for encouraging me to join Carnegiea, which is an opportunity I’m so glad I had. Working with Sharmila at the magazine has opened up another level of the Tucson art scene and taught me many new skills about outreach and management.