For the past eight years, Stefan Ruiz has gained special access to Mexico’s Televisa studios, known as “The Factory of Dreams,” where nearly fifty thousand hours worth of telenovelas (soap operas) are produced and exported annually to more than fifty countries. These intriguing tales of revenge, love, money, and despair are one of Mexico’s largest exports, popular throughout Latin America as well as in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Former Televisa stars turned Hollywood favorites include Salma Hayek, Diego Luna, and Gael García Bernal. Rogelio Guerra, who starred in Los Ricos También Lloran (The Rich Also Cry)—a show whose finale was watched by 70 percent of the population of Russia—once delivered the Russian New Year’s presidential address when Boris Yeltsin fell ill.

Stefan Ruiz’s photographs of the factory and its people offer a behind-the-scenes look at this special place with humor and affection. Ruiz’s photographs uncover a secret world of elaborate and surreal studio sets, and include portraits of the television stars in character and students being groomed for future celebrity at the Televisa “soap school.” This is the world of beautiful women, handsome men, and rags-to-riches Cinderella stories, which reveal the underlying fantasies of social aspiration, as well as entrenched racial hierarchies.

For the Aperture edition, Ruiz chose the image used to illustrate the cover of this just released monograph from Aperture, Stefan Ruiz: The Factory of DreamsHere, a young and handsome aspiring telenovela star is ready for his close up, as he practices for the camera in the onset classroom at the Televisa Acting School.

Stefan Ruiz (born in San Francisco, 1966) studied painting and sculpture at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the Accademia di Belle Arti, Venice. He taught art at San Quentin State Prison and began working as a photographer in 1994. His photographs have appeared in magazines around the world, including COLORS (for which he was creative director, 2003–4), New York Times MagazineTelegraph Magazine, and Rolling Stone. His work has been published in two monographs, San Francisco Berlin (2011) and People (2006), and exhibited at Les Rencontres d’Arles, France; Photographers’ Gallery, London; PhotoEspaña, Madrid; New York Photo Festival; Havana Biennial; and Contact Photography Festival, Toronto. He lives in New York.