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Introducing Reuben Wu – New Work and Interview

photo-eye Gallery Introducing Reuben Wu
New Work & Interview
photo-eye Gallery Director Anne Kelly interviews our new represented artist Reuben Wu. Wu will make his photo-eye Gallery debut at our Photo LA exhibition.

Reuben Wu, LN 0309, Archival Pigment Print, 15x20" Image, Edition of 10, $950
Every so often I have the privilege of introducing new represented artists at photo-eye Gallery. Reuben Wu is a creative genius who’s already made his mark in multiple mediums, including being a founding member of the British electronic band Ladytron. Wu caught my attention with his unique approach to the classic genre of landscape photography. Traveling to remote locations, Wu frames his subject matter, often expansive geographic formations, against the inky night sky—but his light source is neither natural or traditional studio lighting. Wu affixes lights to drones using them to illuminate select parts of the landscape occasionally drawing Saturn-like rings and other precise geometric marks in the night sky. Wu’s images freeze space and time, yielding images that feel simultaneously primordial and post-apocalyptic. He creates harmony between light and dark. We are excited to present two series by Wu, Lux Noctis and Aeroglyphs, now available on the Gallery's website. Reuben will make his exhibitory debut with photo-eye Gallery at Photo LA 2019, Jan 31–Feb 3 in booth G02. I’m pleased to share my recent conversation with Wu, and I hope you enjoy these beautiful, otherworldly new bodies of work!
–Anne Kelly, Gallery Director

» View Lux Noctis      » View Aeroglyphs

Reuben Wu, AE 0394 – Delta Archival Pigment Print, 15x20" Image, 1/10, $950
Anne Kelly:     I was introduced to your work by your book publisher Kris Graves.  How did you get connected with Kris?

Reuben Wu:     We first met at Photolucida 2017 in Portland. It was my first portfolio review so I was a bit nervous. He asked me some tough questions and I liked the cut of his jib. After a few months had passed, we started discussing a book collaboration for my Lux Noctis project. It sold out pretty fast and was even added to the libraries at the Guggenheim, the Met and Art Institute in Chicago. It was great working with him; I just need to shoot more work so we can make a new book together.

Reuben Wu photographing on location.
AK:    You grew up in Liverpool, UK discovering and falling in love with the American South West as a child through National Geographic. Do you still have the same affinity for the South West? And did you know early on that photography was something you wanted to pursue?

RW:     I do. The UK has a lot of really beautiful natural scenery and I spent a lot of my childhood there hiking and climbing, but the desert landscapes of the American West was something I only saw in National Geographic or in epic films. They seemed so sublime and such a figment of my imagination that I thought I’d never see them with my own eyes, but since traveling the USA with my band and following on from then as a photographer living in the same country, I suddenly found myself within easy reach of these places. Each time I visit, my experience is like a half-dreamed memory fused with reality.

My first love was drawing, but I eventually decided to switch to using a camera as a quicker way to document my travels with my band. What started out as a hobby turned into an obsession, and now it's my full-time job. But even though my practice is photography, I don’t really think of it as such. I still draw compositions before I make them with the camera if I need to think through things or share ideas easily.

Reuben Wu, LN 6846, Archival Pigment Print,
17x17" Image, Edition of 10, $950
AK:     In addition to being a photographer, you’re also a keyboardist, DJ, and music producer with the popular band Ladytron—how does your music influence your photography?

RW:     Unless I create audiovisual work, where I’m able to combine the two disciplines, music doesn’t really influence my visual art, as I like to keep them separate. Visuals and music do have similar qualities though, like composition: the balance of elements, and the articulation of a mood.

AK:    Most creatives feel fortunate to make a career out of one art form, while you have pursued both visual arts and music with great success. What do you attribute your success to, and what advice or words of wisdom would you pass on to others pursuing creative dreams?

RW:    I’d say I’ve been lucky, but I think the more things you are interested in and are passionate about and the more people you communicate with, the more you can improve your chances of success. I also think having been an outsider all my life has helped me think more clearly about ideas and believing in my own imagination.

AK:     Your work has brought something completely new to at least a few well-covered genres—landscape photography and night photography. Was this a goal of yours or have you surprised yourself?

RW:     When I first set out to do more photography after taking a break with the band, I felt like I was learning how to articulate my vision, so I was experimenting with analog and digital processes, as well as combining these in specific locations, to create my work. This included doing 5 hour long exposures on a hacked Polaroid camera at the top of the mountain in New Zealand or capturing time lapse of projected patterns onto landscapes in the American South West. They were all ways to help me understand photography better, but they also helped me push into completely new areas, and I really enjoyed forging this path for myself.

A time-lapse behind-the-scenes video of Reuben Wu's photographic process.

AK:     You’ve clearly traveled to some amazing places making photographs. Your images feel simultaneously primordial and post-apocalyptic. What is your process for finding the location?

RW:     The locations are usually very remote and away from people because I much prefer to make the pictures in complete solitude. The remoteness of place helps me work on the creative process without distraction and without being observed, judged or questioned. It’s also important that I am in places where drone flight is not banned or isn’t too intrusive to the natural environment. The look of the images is inspired in part by 19th-century sublime landscape painting, so I do look for specific landforms and compositions which relate to that, as well as topography that lends itself to aerial lighting.

AK:     The images you create have a very Sci-Fi vibe. Are you a fan?

RW:     I do love sci-fi, but only a specific part of the genre. I’ve never been interested in Star Wars beyond my childhood because it just seemed like a fairytale which had no bearing on my reality. Instead, I was interested in more speculative fiction such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris, and Blade Runner because they appeared to occupy elements of reality that I knew. They seemed more possible, and that had much more impact on me.

Reuben Wu, LN 0344, Archival Pigment Print, 
15x20" Image, Edition of 10, $950
AK:     You’ve said before when you began experimenting with photography it was with very low-tech gear and expired film. Now you use high-end technology with both your camera and lighting. What led you to make the transition?

RW:     When I was experimenting with analog processes, it was very much bound to the specifics of the medium: the many vintage cameras, the weird expired film types, and while that helped me understand photography better, it was also a distraction from the real goal, which was the image. I began thinking about what picture I wanted to make first, and then what equipment I needed to achieve that, second. It was a slow transition and I don’t shoot much film anymore but my original workflow of combining techniques and the element of craft still remains, just without the procrastination of what camera or film I should use.

AK:     And lastly, sweet or salty? What is your favorite dish from all the places you’ve traveled?

RW:     Salty. I always return to two favorite dishes. Chinese pan-friend dumplings and British Indian Curry.

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All prices listed were current at the time this post was published. 
Prices will increase as the print editions sell.

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