Lindsey Ruth - Discovering your style

LA photographer creates modern-psychedelic-fashion artwork

Griffin Sendek | Senior Editor

Self Portrait of Lindsey Ruth in a leather outfit she designed

For an artist to reach the point that their work is instantly recognizable as uniquely their own is a benchmark nearly all photographers strive to surpass. In the world of photography, a thoroughly saturated medium with near-endless possibilities, having a distinctive creative vision, style and look with every photo is no easy task.

Los Angeles-based portrait photographer Lindsey Ruth has crafted a body of work that is unmistakably her own. Her portraits blend mediums and distort reality, forging unique, one-of-a-kind photographs that are a refreshing and notable contribution to the art form.

The ability to repeatedly bring that vision to life with the level of artistry and efficiency that Lindsey is capable of helps her work stand out among the vast sea of portrait photographers.

Models: @xowiejones (left) @emmanorts (right)

Lindsey’s journey as a photographer began in “the middle of nowhere” Sacramento, after discovering an old film camera of her parents and has been shooting ever since. Lindsey took photography classes throughout high school, and upon graduation, “I wasn't really sure what I was supposed to do for the rest of my life,” Lindsey says. “So I ended up studying photography.” Lindsey studied at California Polytechnic State University and went on to work a variety of photography jobs, including a wedding photographer, in e-commerce, and as a commercial editor.

While the overall polish of Lindsey’s recent work might appear to be from years of refinement, In reality, she didn’t discover and experiment with this style until the end of 2020.

“In December [2020], I had an opportunity to rent out a studio from one of my friends that I couldn't even afford. I was like, ok, I'm just going to try it for two months,” Lindsey says.

“Having that space just like really allowed me to experiment and really like dig deep into my brain creatively and kind of see what I could come up with”

Look back at the life of any great artist — there is almost always a decisive moment, one chance opportunity, or considerable risk that fundamentally shifted their career. Taking this risk with a studio she couldn’t afford could very well be the moment that changed everything.

For Lindsey, grasping at the coattails of other successful photographers resulted in little more running around in circles producing work that never made her truly happy.

Lindsey looks back to just a few years ago. “I was seeing all these huge photographers, and you know, bought the same filter pack as everybody. I was trying to like copy them and doing what was popular because that's what I thought people wanted.”

When artists genuinely love what they create and find ways to make it their own, the work often stands out far more than copying what is popular.

“Once I started getting more comfortable with who I was and what I wanted creatively and kind of putting that work out more, is the work that I'm kind of more I've known for now,” Lindsey explains.

“I think the more I got comfortable with myself and the less I tried to fit in so much to what everyone else was doing is the work I'm the most happy with.”

Scrolling back to the beginning of her Instagram, there is a resounding shift exactly around December 2020 as you see all the ways in which Lindsey’s style develops as she truly came into her own.

Model: @emmanorts

The dark shadow cast by the ticking clock always looms overhead for artists. There is a constant sense the time is running out, and you’re not creating fast enough or good enough or making enough money, or your name isn’t plastered in a dozen magazines and that and if you haven’t found a signature style yet that it’s already far too late. Even when we know better, this feeling is often inescapable. With constant access to comparing the more successful lives of others, social media has made this daunting clock tick even louder.

Lindsey’s story is proof that none of that is true.

It can take years to find your niche and make what you’re genuinely pleased with; the necessity to define your style and produce your best work as soon as possible is horribly unrealistic.

Lindsey’s story is also a reminder to take every opportunity to grow. Within the world of art, small choices can make colossal ripples. A simple change of setting and mindset with the will to create and a little bit of risk can be the start of a new chapter in one’s creative journey.

“I feel like just like forcing myself to experiment over and over and over again, especially getting that studio space, that I —again— literally could not afford at the time,” Lindsey reiterates. “It’s what really helped me to like, make that shift and find my own voice.”

Lindsey self describes her work as “It's kind of like a modern-psychedelic-fashion-ish, which I don't fit into any category.”

"It's kind of like a modern-psychedelic-fashion-ish, which I don't fit into any category."
Model: @stephaniebotto. Lindsey hires artist and illustrators to add to her photos

Lindsey’s work can’t be shoehorned into any singular category yet remains cohesive. Her photography combines surrealism, mixed media collage, and modern fashion, often filled with midcentury vintage and fantasy elements. What she creates is broad and unexpected enough that truly anything goes; Lindsey isn’t pigeonholed into one specific category and has made a space that’s ever-welcoming to new ideas.

While some portrait photographers shy away from lens distortion, seeking a more natural and conventional look for their models, the lens-warped look is Lindsey’s bread and butter.

“So I use a wide-angle lens, a 14mm, and I discovered that because my ex-boyfriend had it and he never used it, So I just kind of started playing with it and eventually, I like feel in love with it, and it's like how I get the really long effect in all my photos,” She ecstatically professes. “It's like my soul mate that lens. I love it so much”

The way the 14mm lens naturally distorts the body and creates the elongated and emphasized look she enjoys opens the doors for Lindsey to manipulate the subject further, warping and liquifying elements in the photo in a way that’s somehow naturally unnatural. Accentuated but almost believable that it was all captured in-camera.

Model: @noordabashh. The wide angle look is a signature of Lindsey's photography

“I can’t use normal lenses anymore,” Lindsey says.

Shooting with Lindsey is an experience; her presence and personality behind the camera are crucial ingredients in creating her photographs.

“I'm like yelling at my models and telling them how beautiful they are, and that usually kind of helps people relax a bit,” Lindsey says. “And my lens also just makes people look like really good and tall and so people like that. And I think that keeping people feeling comfortable and feeling good about themselves allows you to kind of do the funkier poses.”

You can tell from her photographs that her models are always having fun and the amount of trust they place in Lindsey.

“I think it's really important to establish like, a really personal rapport with my models because like I do love everyone I shoot, and they really feel like my friend by the end,” Lindsey says.

Being in front of the camera while empowering it’s also a state of vulnerability. Even for experienced models, many things can make a shoot uncomfortable. Lindsey does everything she can to make her subjects feel right at home.

“You can see in the photo when someone's not comfortable, or someone is feeling themselves. And I think you can also see when someone feels really good.” She adds that creating this sense of comfort is one of the essential parts of shooting with her.

“I don't want it to just be about the photos; I want it to be about the whole experience. I want people to have a good time. I want them to leave feeling great about themselves, and I want them to be happy with the photos.”