Buffalo, New York native Tito Ruiz is a documentary/street photographer, videographer, and media consultant who serves as creative director and founder of TRu iNk Media®. After three weeks on public display, he successfully closed his debut solo black and white photo exhibition at CEPA Gallery in downtown Buffalo, titled “Hope, Rebellion & Justice” on August 29, 2020. The exhibit received rave reviews for its striking candid shots and intimate portraits, primarily photographed during Buffalo’s intense summer 2020 civil rights demonstrations.
Ruiz developed a love for photography at the age of nine when his mother bought a 35mm Kodak. He also gravitated towards her Popular Photography magazine subscription. He cites the life and work of legendary photographer and renaissance man Gordon Parks as a major inspiration. Ruiz says his experience photographing ringside fights along with NBA players and street ballers at Rucker Park, a world-famous basketball league in Harlem, New York, are also factors that influence his photography style. Additionally, he worked as a jeweler for several years, and became a certified diamontologist, which he says, “trained my eye to see well beyond the surface of an object.”
A published photographer and writer, his editorials, ranging from sports features, music reviews, and entrepreneurship, have been published in national and local publications such as High Times (magazine), Vibe, Hip Hop Weekly, DUB Magazine, NY Daily News, Primer Round Boxing Magazine, et. al.
Ruiz—who began selling candy door-to-door on the West Side of Buffalo at the age of five—credits his adverse life experiences and a laundry list of dissimilar jobs he held, for equipping him with the unique skillset that he applies to his artistry and entrepreneurship. His job titles have ranged from Buffalo News delivery boy to telemarketer to magazine collections agent to men’s clothing salesman to cable auditor to banker. He even held a stint as a chauffeur for Saudi Arabia’s royal family.
Ruiz’s work early on as a marketing coordinator for Jay Z’s fan club, however, provided him with strong knowledge of effective marketing and publicity campaigns. Ruiz also learned a great deal about robust business operations and event promotions through firsthand observations of Afro-Latino entertainment mogul Ralph Mercado, whose popular Times Square nightclub Ruiz worked at for several years as a bartender and host. Furthermore, as a Village Voice editorial assistant, he learned the foundations of raw journalism.
Ruiz says in 2016 he scaled back from his normal independent contractor duties, primarily consisting of serving the multimedia communication needs of talent, small businesses, and special entities, so that he could pursue his longtime goal of earning a college degree.
In January 2019, he earned a Bachelor of Science in digital media & brand management, with an emphasis on photography and film studies, from Buffalo State College. Immediately after, he continued his graduate studies there and majored in creativity, innovation, and change leadership. He recently decided, however, to suspend his academic pursuits to focus on what Ruiz says is “creative work that is critical during these tumultuous times.”