Interview with… Justin Wu

Photos by Justin Wu
Justin’s Daily Journal


Fashion & Commerical photographer, Justin Wu, was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, and now divides his time between Paris and London. Starting out as an exhibited fine-art photographer, Justin continually experiments with different media and currently focuses on developing short fashion films globally. Currently, he is looking to be signed to a photography agency in NYC, London or Paris. His recent work includes the FW2010 AXARA Campaign and cover & fashion story for Twill Magazine’s Issue 13.

Can you tell something about you?
I would consider myself always restless and continually seeking inspiration. Rather than going on research trips, I simply take inspiration from reading the news, observing people on the street, dreams, and conversations with friends. I’m always catching myself planning the next project, storyboarding, or jotting down ideas when I’m in the subway. I guess it’s a product of finally finding a job I’m truly passionate about.


How and when did you start to take photos?
I started taking photos about 3 years ago as a hobby while in University and focused primarily on fine-art photography. Fortunately, a couple galleries took interest and led to some exhibitions which propelled me to pursue photography as a career. At the time I graduated I had experimented in fashion photography and quickly found my passion there.

Where your inspiration comes from and what experiences and photographers have influenced the way you work?
Living in Paris and being in such a culturally rich city, I find that most of my inspiration comes from just wandering the streets, attending art exhibitions and observing people around me. I think my business background and fine-art background influences the way I deal with clients and the sentimentality of each photo I take.


How much of your life there is behind your photos?
I try to keep my personal life separate from my pictures, but I have drawn on different feelings or subjects about myself I either find fascinating or interesting to express.

What relationship do you have with your subject when you take a photo?
I always try to develop a rapport with the model before the shoot. If possible I try to arrange a meeting a day before or at the very least talk to the model during all of hair and make-up. It allows me to quickly try to understand the subject and anticipate how he/she works with direction and what emotions they can evoke. Fortunately, more often than not because I spend so much time trying to get to the subject we become good friends after and stay in touch.


Can you tell us something about your portraits, what’s is important to focus for you?
My aim is to focus on subtle hints of emotion with interesting forms in each photo. Rather than evoke strict sadness or happiness, my attempt is to let the viewer interpret the feelings of the subject. To do so, I try to make my subjects exist in an emotionally detached state while living in their own world and all the while, keeping the images interesting focusing on forms, shadows, and shapes.

What does it mean for you “fashion”?
Fashion to me is both an art form and statement about one’s self. Using combinations of fabrics, forms, textures and proportions, fashion can help one express one’s individuality or fit in with a culture. Fashion can also be used to make political and social statements using symbols and challenging aspects of what we think of as feminine and masculine. Fashion is also a culture of cooperative creativity. From stylists, designers, to photographers and models, all are involved in the process of creating something unique and beautiful.


What do you think about streetphotography?
I am a great admirer of street photography. It takes a more journalistic eye to capture events and people around them as it occurs. The key difference I see between fashion and street photography is the sense of control. In fashion, we produce images using set designers, storyboards, poses, etc. rather than capturing people in their natural state. Street photography is a necessity as it stands to not only document history and the time we live in, but the society that we are irrespective of where the photo is taken. Looking deeper into those images, we can also see what becomes relevant to us and what we find interesting in our society today.

Can you suggest to the others photographers that wanted to start with fashion photography some tips?
Besides being passionate about your work, one must identify and develop one’s own sense of style. These days with online tutorials, photography classes, etc. it becomes too easy to emulate the greats. In this industry that is transient and moves incredibly quickly, a sense of personal style and a great personality is what sets you apart.


Do you think that with fashion a photographer can still work with film or digital photography it’s becoming a must?
In fashion, quality should not be compromised and the photographer should have the option of using either in his workflow. Albeit, digital photography is becoming a must since most clients and editors are often requesting sample images the day after or even during the shoot while you work. Furthermore, digital technology has gotten to a point where it is almost exceeding the quality of film and allowing for much more creativity in the digital manipulation realm. However, there will always be fashion photographers who prefer the classic and pure form of film so long film is still being made.

What are your future works, do you have a special project?
Right now I’m preparing an haute couture shoot for L’Officiel’s October Issue, which I’m very excited about. As well, following my short film submission to the A Shaded View on Fashion FIlm Festival, I’m planning to produce a complete series of fashion short films for a couple magazines.


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