Monday, 15 October 2012



Reuben Wu must be one of the world's greatest treasures - well, he is as far as I am concerned. I have rarely come across anyone so determined to get the picture he wanted. I saw his work on Flickr in January 2012 and, although there were only a few photographs, there were enough to tell me that this man was an unusual person with great talent. I had to be in one of his photographs. He had heard of my project and said that he would love to be involved and suggested we get together in a few months' time. For one reason or another, I left it for another five months until I wrote again asking if he was still interested. He was and he sent me a picture of a cement works which he thought would be a good location. Again, I left it a few months (2012 was like that) and this time he asked me if there was a favourite place where I would like to be photographed. I thought about this and replied saying that it would have to be West Wittering in Sussex, my childhood home and that I would love to be photographed on the beach. He thought that sounded great and said that he had an idea which involved finding a small rock or a boulder sticking out of a rock pool or the sea - he sent me a photo of such a rock (see below). It needed to have a mountainous look if viewed up close. He wanted to photograph me under the same light conditions but the idea was to place me (via post-processing) on the summit of the rock as if it were a full sized outcrop of rock say, 50 feet high. He explained that he wanted it to look huge rather than me to look miniature so he would have to think about his depth of field. He thought either would be interesting but making it huge would be very nice if he could do it. He added that he had never done this before so it would be very interesting and very rewarding if it worked!

The Rock on West Wittering Beach

We chose a day and hoped that it would be slightly overcast and also that there would not be too many people on the beach. I collected Reuben from Chichester Station and we drove down what to me was the very familiar road to West Wittering. So many memories come flooding back every time I make this journey; my chest heaves with the weight of the recollections of my childhood and my late mother who lived there for so long. 

Some months before, I had visited an old acquaintance who lived only yards from the beach. Her husband had died recently and we had corresponded briefly following his death. Very kindly, she said that, if I ever wanted to go to the beach, I could park in her drive. This was marvellous because it is a long walk from the main road and there is limited access for cars because the road leading to the beach is private. We parked but did not see my friend and so we set off to the beach. It was incredibly windy as only West Wittering can be in October. Lately, I had been suffering a bit because I was beginning to experience "On/Off" periods that is, when the pills ceased to have effect and I was waiting until it was time to take a new one. We walked eastwards but did not find any rocks and so I suggested we walk in the opposite direction because I knew the landscape would be more interesting. The wind blew stronger and I felt myself struggling but I was so impressed by Reuben's desire and determination to find the best location. We never did find a rock but I have to say that I was mightily relieved when he decided to use employ instead a line of breakwater posts sticking out of the sand. He then got out a Polaroid camera and explained that he was only going to use that! Very carefully, he sized up the posts and took pictures from various angles, each time carefully examining the picture he had taken. The amazing thing was that all the time the wind blew harder and yet he stopped to compare a bunch of Polaroids by pinning them to his leg with his finger. If I had been doing this, the pictures would have disappeared immediately! I marvelled at his calmness whilst he assiduously compiled the images and then, at last, he called me forward and photographed me separately. Eventually he agreed that he had got what he wanted and I was very glad to start retracing our steps along the beach back to the car. But even then he stopped every so often and took yet another shot of the sky. By this time it was raining and the wind was so hard that the spots of rain were like little razors as they hit our faces. 

We reached the shelter of the car (with some relief as far as I am concerned) and just as we were getting ready to leave, my friend came out of her house with her daughter whom I had not seen since she used to play with my sister almost 40 years ago. They said that they were worried about us having been on the beach so long on such a day as this. It was very nice to see them both again and it marked a pleasant end to the shoot. On the way back to the Station, we stopped for tea and cake at a little cafe and chatted. Reuben told me that his main occupation was as a musician which surprised me . I mean there was no reason why he shouldn't be a musician but the way he had gone about the photographic job in hand was so impressive that one would think it was his only passion and maybe it is.

Well, I received only one image from him but what an image! And it was all compiled from a set of polaroids! It is utterly amazing and really says so much not only about the day but about West Wittering beach as well. Those who know the beach also know that it can be a unforgiving place as well as beautiful and that day it was both and Reuben captured that dichotomy in a very unique way. Reuben has a very special talent. He is curious and sees beauty everywhere and then reproduces it with such artistry and such care that it absolutely blows your mind. This is a simply wonderful picture and I am so very proud to be able to say - I have been photographed by Reuben Wu. 


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