Exclusive Interview: Mike Ruiz embraces his inner Leatherman with new photography project “it’s been an epiphany for me”

15th April 2022, 9:21 am


Photographer Mike Ruiz decked out in leather for his Leathermen series. Self-portrait. Ⓒ Mike Ruiz.


Celebrity and fashion photographer Mike Ruiz, whose career spans over 30 years, has turned his lens to an ongoing portrait series focusing on the beauty and diversity of the Leather community. These stunning images celebrate the continuing history of this community in all its glory, aiming to help keep its traditions alive for future generations.


What’s your own history with leather and what’s the draw of it for you?
“Like many gay men, I have pretty much formed my whole identity around the iconography of Tom of Finland. That aesthetic has always been titillating to me, but the kink and fetish aspect of it scared me. I was brought up to think that it was an indication of a damaged psyche, so I was afraid of it but drawn to it at the same time. I really wanted to get into it, but was worried that if I did I would go down this dark abyss that’d I’d never recover from. Which is ridiculous in hindsight, but I really grappled with that for a long time. I’m now in my late fifties, so I came of age in an era when many men still felt a strong need to overcompensate for being gay. I had a lot of toxic shame surrounding being gay that spilled over into my sex life. I struggled with with an internal conflict regarding what I was drawn to sexually, but denied myself.”

TOM OF FINLAND Untitled, 1973, Graphite on paper, 11.81” x 09.84”, © 1973 Tom of Finland Foundation


“The work of Tom of Finland: I’ve tried to model my whole life after a Tom of Finland character, down to my own personal aesthetic and my work. So I’m really happy that I’ll be having a solo show of my work at Tom of Finland Foundation’s TOM House in LA in June. We’ve come together because they love this project. They feel like it’s shining a much-needed light on the Leather community and so much of their support comes from perpetuating that culture. It’s a really good project for us to come together on.”

The Queer Review’s editor James Kleinmann had an exclusive conversation with Mike Ruiz about how the series began, how his own perception of leather and BDSM has expanded, his approach to photographing the leather itself, the reaction he’s received so far, and his own Leather daddy idols.









TOM’s FOUNDATION + MIKE RUIZ’s EYE: Teams Up + Gears Up Exhibition

18th Jun 2022 – 2nd Jul 2022 @ 10:00 am – 6:00 pm –         To kick off Daddy’s Day weekend celebrations, Tom of Finland Foundation presents an exciting photography exhibition by world famous fashion photographer Mike Ruiz at TOM House. TOM’s FOUNDATION + MIKE RUIZ’s EYE: Teams Up + Gears Up features selected images from his on-going portrait series of the Leather community.  These stunning […]
Mike Ruiz Exhibition

TOM’s Bar 2022

19th Jun 2022 @ 2:00 pm – 10:00 pm –                                           Tom of Finland Foundation is back with our biggest TOM’s Bar in history! The festivities for the rousing “Daddy’s Day” party for Tom take place at a new partnering venue, The Avalon & Bardot […]

TOM’s Bar

  About the Weekend Exhibition TOM’s Bar Tickets Social Media Announcements Gallery About the Weekend The theme for the year is “Tom Unites”, a celebration of the community coming together after a strenuous two years with a global pandemic. To kick off the Daddy’s Day weekend celebrations in June’s Pride Month,  Tom of Finland Foundation… View Article
Daddys Day 500

Published: 15th April 2022

Tags: , , ,

Categorised in: ,