"I go back to my anthropology skills, and try to relate to the person, connect with them in some way where they feel comfortable enough to be in front of a camera."
snapshotsInsights from Ron Wu
It happened by accident that I became a photographerís assistant. I wanted to get into photography, and one day a photographer approached me on the street while I was shooting some personal work. He started talking to me, and he basically offered me a job right then and there. He wanted somebody that was willing to work hard and work for little money, and thatís what I did to learn. It was a good start. He got into film work, and I took over some of his still business and then helped him out with filmódid all sort of lighting and grip work. I learned a lot about production through him.
I think the first photographer who got me very interested in photography was Ansel Adams, the craft, the technical partóhe and Edward Weston. I started reading the approach they had to photography, especially the technical part, controlling the process, pre-visualizing. The work they did wasnít something that happened by chance. It was something that they used their skills and technical abilities to achieve. Thatís the whole scientific and technical part of photography that interested me in the beginning.
When I shoot portraits, itís not the technical part that I think about at allóthatís second nature to me now. Itís directing the person in front of me, trying to get the look I want. I go back to my anthropology skills, and try to relate to the person, connect with them in some way where they feel comfortable enough to be in front of a camera. I donít come across as a ďfancyĒ photographer. Everybody works together. There is no drama just everybody working to get the best job done.
The client relationship
I find the most important thing is to listen very carefully at the beginningóall the pre-production conference calls and meetings. After that itís up to the photographer to create the event, to make it happen. A lot of people whom I work with think I am pretty easy going when it comes to shooting. But I always try to keep in mind that they come to me, or any photographer, with their vision, and you have to keep that vision moving forward, keep the look where you are sort of pushing it a little bit while giving the client the look they want and making it all technically perfect.
A photographerís approach
I know in still-life there is simplicity. Now I am trying to translate that into shooting peopleówhere there is an essence and a simplicity to the thing--the spirit, essence or the beauty of something. If itís a location, itís finding the feeling of it, the spirit of the place, if itís a person, same thing. If itís an object, itís finding the beauty.
Do you take a camera with you when you go on vacation?
Oh yeah, definitely. The only question is how big. I have a point and shoot thatís really good, a medium point and shoot, digital, full-sized cameras, four by fives, panoramic cameras, whatever. But I always bring a camera.
Ron Wu The Scientific Approach
If there is one thing Chicago-based Ron Wu should be proud about, it is simply that he is not proud. He is not about ego; he is all about the result---about problem-solving, collaboration, getting the job done on time and on budget for clients like Terry Bicycles, Converse, and IBM. He is a professional who has mastered the arts and crafts of photography, approaching his work with the skill and detachment of a philosopher or scientist. Born in New Haven, educated at New York University, and trained as an anthropologist, Ron inherently brings a type of philosophic or scientific intelligence to his shoots. That means that he is, among many things, a technical wiz, capable of problem-solving at the highest level. At the same time, his detachment allows him to focus clearly and insightfully on the subjects at hand, be they people, places, or things. Perhaps itís best to sum up what Ron brings to a job in the form of a philosopherís proposition: When a photographer like Ron Wu complements his self-effacing, thorough and systematic nature with world-class skill and creativity, then a state or a condition exists that will always result in a very happy clientóQ.E.D. At the end of the day, that is what it is all about for Ron Wu.