May 11, 2017

Season of Illusions with Reuben Wu

Balancing a career in photography, film, industrial design and music production, all while being in the band Ladytron, Reuben Wu is a man of many talents. Inspired by his love affair with science fiction, this Stocksy artist’s surreal landscapes captivate and challenge traditional perspectives of our planet.

We caught up with the Liverpool native, now rooted in Chicago, to talk art, inspiration, and uncover some of the processes behind his work.

You’re a music producer, photographer and filmmaker with an MSc in Industrial Design. How did this breadth of disciplines unfold?
I studied industrial design first, but during this time I formed a band which ended up being successful so I left my nascent design career and did music for the next 10 years. During that time, I developed photography into a hobby and then picked up video, before going full time in visual art.

So you picked up photography on the road?
Yes, I got into photography while travelling extensively with my band. It started as a casual travelogue but turned into a full-time career. Design has influenced how I think about visual language, colour, and understanding light.

Do you lean more towards film or digital these days?
My favourite medium to shoot with is medium format. It just feels good, physically and emotionally. Sadly I don’t shoot it much these days. Digital full frame has taken over my film camera and I still don’t have a MF digital yet.

“The images are a response to the overabundance of beautiful photography we see every day of our planet.”

— Reuben Wu

Your work can feel incredibly surreal. What is the inspiration behind these shoots?
The images are a response to the overabundance of beautiful photography we see every day of our planet. I wanted to avoid making pictures in the same way we have been since the beginning of photography. Once something is so familiar, then there is a risk of taking it for granted. If people stopped and reconsidered what we have, then maybe it would change our perceptions of our planet.

I always see my stills as scenes from a film that doesn’t exist. They don’t tell a whole story, but they do allude to a larger fiction.

Your work is heavily influenced by science fiction. Where does that fascination stem from?
The interest in science fiction began as a child poring over foreign and interplanetary landscapes and space technology in National Geographic. I was obsessed with not only the photographic images but also the artist’s impressions which accompanied these photos. Science fiction is the most exciting for me when it is grounded in reality; when the unreal is only slightly adjusted from what we know as everyday life, rather than Star Wars type epics — but then I also like films like Dune. 🙂

You’re also into 19th-century Romantic Sublime painting. Any artists in particular that you draw inspiration from?
Definitely. Friedrich, Turner and Church, as well as artists like Moebius.

How do you achieve the extraterrestrial feel in your images?
I shoot a lot of long exposure work. This always suspends time in some way and shows something the human eye never sees. I’m also very attentive to detail in post production. It’s not just singular colours but combinations of colours which can cause a subtle but significant change in the look of a photograph.

How do you marry your love for both technology and art in your work?
Technology is a tool for making art. I think there has to be a balance between the process and the final art for a successful combination, but it really is all about the picture. If the execution and technology behind the picture are in harmony, then that is a great place to be.

What future projects are you excited about right now?
I’m excited to continue with my Lux Noctis series this year, where I depict landscapes in an unfamiliar light as if they were newly discovered.

Reuben is a multi-disciplinary artist, working in photography, music, and motion. The notion of journey and discovery is one which is central to his art, bound with his love for new technology and the opportunities it brings to modern storytelling. See more of Reuben’s work here >>

More Great Interviews From Stocksy