the destroyer > art > Ben Ruggiero


My aims for this project were consistent with the stated goals of CPI – (Consumer Programs Incorporated) photographic service:

“Whether you want a classic look or have something more contemporary in mind, at Sears Portrait Studio, you’ll be matched with a professional, experienced photographer who can help achieve your vision. And, if you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking for, our professionals can guide you in the right direction.”

CPI produces portraiture for Sears, WalMart and other retailers in America. They are like a free agent of image-making across traditional corporate borders. I had something more contemporary in mind, and, yes, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was looking for. I was interested in utilizing fixed studio portraiture methodologies to produce imagery in order to realize other potentials for image-making in a collaborative set time frame and structure.

I couldn’t envision what would happen, aside from placing myself in the process as a consumer of those services. I was interested in challenging the parameters of what could be produced at the Sears location and still be considered work by both myself and the Sears photographer. Luckily, I was matched with Rosie Cardenas. Standard devices for producing images, our personal aesthetics, and even the syntax of the production studio itself were in question for both of us. Soon we ran through the standard shots and by continuing to return to them we were forced to find our subject matter through our sessions. Our collaboration was resolved with an image that resonated for the both of us and spoke to the context of the engagement and process.

Ben Ruggiero: I think the final image resolves the series. It's a photograph of the back wall of the studio, which is a vague description of a kind of space behind a potential sitter. And this photograph represents the engagement of both of us in the process of making images. She had already seen this formal element of this standard photo drop background and liked it.

Andy Campbell: What would you call that a picture of?

BR: It's a picture of almost nothing. A picture of a setting, tableaux, a context for creating portraiture, and that's what really flipped the project back in on itself. It was an epiphany moment! We were allowed to let ourselves like this image, exactly for what it was.