Ruben Ramirez spends his days behind the lens of a camera capturing the lives of inmates at San Quentin. His work as a cinematographer has given him a unique look into aspects of his own life.
‘All I used to do was take in life…Now I want to give back’
Ramirez said he has always kept people at arms length. However, when filming, he tries to get as close to the individual as possible. “I want to let the world in, but I have something inside me preventing me from doing so, and my camera work has allowed me to see I have this inner desire.”
Ramirez says the camera has taught him to see life from a new perspective. He views his camera work as an art.
Life has not always been easy for Ramirez. He was born in Pecos, Texas, the son of migrant farm workers. He spent the better part of his childhood following the harvest with his father, mother, eight brothers, and three sisters. When he was about three years old, his family moved to California, eventually settling in the tiny town of Firebaugh, in Fresno County.
In his 54 years of life, Ramirez has held down many jobs, including migrant farm laborer, material handler, and industrial maintenance mechanic.
Before coming to prison in 2007, he says he was an angry, judgmental, and self-centered individual. Now serving a sentence of 15 years to life for gross vehicular manslaughter, Ramirez is determined to change.
Ramirez says he is working on becoming a humble, patient, and considerate person. Traits which, he said, “I will have to work on for the rest of my life, but that is OK with me.”
He says he stays focused on his goals by surrounding himself with people who have a positive attitude about life. “I have met some of the best people in life at San Quentin,” he observed.
While in San Quentin, Ramirez completed the vocational sheet metal training program. He has also completed Non-Violent Communications and Impact, and attends Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Victim Offender Education Group and various Bible study groups. He said these self-help programs have given him insight into what led him to prison.
Ramirez says his transformation has inspired him to become a volunteer when released. “All I used to do was take in life,” he said. “Now I want to give back.”