Ethan Wu is a Film Club Member and Student Ambassador. Some of his photographs have been featured in Member Shows and on our Instagram for regular features. We have always been inspired by his photos' vibrant colors and overall composition. This week we decided to interview him and highlight a collection of his photographs.
PL: What got you interested in photography?
EW: I always used to get asked this question when I was shooting more events - sophomore year in high school I went on this trip to Italy with my Latin class. My parents had given me their camera to use for the trip and I became the de facto trip photographer. I had always been interested in iPhone photography and editing photos to remember the moment but never really had the chance to be in such a beautiful place with (what I thought at the time was) a professional camera. Coincidentally my HS AP Art teacher was also on the trip, saw what I was doing, and pushed me to take AP 2D Design my junior year. Fast forward a bit, and I began shooting track meets, buying my own equipment, and starting a photography business.
PL: What type of camera do you shoot with, and what kind of film do you usually use?
EW: I shoot digital on a Canon 5D4 but my go to film is my Olympus MJU ii given its size. Carrying around a large camera, with all its hassle, discourages taking photos and nowadays removing barriers is hugely important. I love shooting on Ultramax 400 and Portra 400 but nowadays it’s more whatever I can find at the store. Not the biggest fan of Fuji though - it’s a little too purple and green.
PL: Many of your photos have a beautiful quality of light. When photographing, what are you thinking before you click the shutter? What inspires you to take photos of scenes that are nicely lit?
EW: I love taking photos of moments that are fleeting - when the light source is in the exact right spot or the shadows are just interesting enough. It’s crazy how light can make something as boring as a bathroom mirror into an interesting composition during certain times of day. I guess a good way to describe it would be moments that are rare and changing - something I won’t see again unless I’m in the exact right spot.
PL: Several of your photos include people mainly not facing the camera. What do you enjoy about photographing people? What is challenging about it?
EW: People provide context for most of the photos I take. One of my friends always says that my classic photo is a big background with a tiny person, and she’s definitely right. People make a photo interesting - grand landscapes look more grand when you see the enormity and scope. I think this also has to do with the above question - when you’re trying to photograph a person who’s perfectly framed, you only have a few seconds before they walk off and the moment is gone forever. I’m not opposed to photographing the front of people, but given how they’re usually far away and facing away, I appreciate the anonymity and how it really could be anyone.
PL: Many of your photos have a great deal of shadows to the point of silhouetting your subjects. What do you like about this style of photography?
EW: The best light is when shadows are long and the sun is low. My girlfriend and I always send photos to each other on our morning runs or in the late afternoon when the light is particularly beautiful. I think shadows help invoke that feeling of peace you typically get during these periods. More literally, I think they also provide great contrast in photos - especially on plain buildings or backgrounds. I think the photo you’re talking about is the one of the trees and (while my finger or something happened to get caught in it) shadows can often provide a feeling that you’re there observing it yourself.
PL: Out of all of these photos, which one is your favorite and why?
EW: It has to be either the subway one (with the person in the red jacket) or the foggy beach one (with the four people standing on the beach). I think both are moments of peace in very different contexts - for the subway, it’s the relief of getting out of the cold and having the train arrive to whisk them off to their next adventure (suitcase). I also love how warm the colors are - its definitely a very idyllic depiction of the subway. For the beach one, it’s how the fog causes the horizon to disappear and even though it is gloomy, it’s not in a sad or dark way. I’d say it reminds me of all the rainy spring nights in New England growing up.
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