The Sean Mac Loud interview
Sean Mac Loud Interviewing Bruce Wang
SM So tell me about how your photography sessions work
BW At the risk of sounding pretentious, I just want my subjects to be spirited and spiritual.
SM In what way?
BW In the way they come over in the printed shot
SM So to show their inner side?
BW Yes. To some photographers that's anathema.
SM Do you tend to get a grasp of this side of them before you take the photos and do you change the way you take them to accommodate this?
BW Subconsciously and automatically. this could be the first paragraph of the interview.
SM So lets assume that you do this, and perceive them correctly - how does that change the way you create the set up in the studio? would you, for instance change the lighting to reflect someone that you think is either darker or lighter in nature?
BW The setup is very small and rarely changes. I just do my best to inject some atmosphere but sometimes they are so uptight I want to ask them why they bothered to turn up.
SM I have noticed that your subjects are very diverse in nature and not what most would consider mainstream - the Trans community and so on. They seem at ease when you take the photos - possibly they are defensive and wonder if this could be a set up to mock them? How do you convince them that you are "on their side" and to come and be photographed?
BW Im very polite and considerate and I take hundreds of shots.
SM But what do you actually say to them? There's obviously that terror of being invited into a stranger's van type scenario?
BW I know. after a while i became quite well known as being an elderly gentleman and therefore harmless.
SM So you were well known on a particular scene or in general?
BW On the scene. one event organiser said she would be "honoured" if I went and took photos..
SM So generally you're well known in your local area as such?
SM So.. when they turn up, some are nervous - how do you go about setting up a scene? would it be ad hoc, or do you usually have a situation to put them into , or does it boil down to how comfortable the subject is? Would you allow them to create their own?
BW The Green Room and Hallways have pics of Drag Kings. There was one very nervous one I invited back twice so that I could get some decent shots--it worked out in the end.
SM So let's go back to the early days..What made you get into photography? what inspired you and what was your first camera?
BW My first camera was a Kodak Brownie. I thought it was so delicate and precious. My brother said there were little people inside who made the shapes of what I pointed the camera at. In the end I opened the camera and unrolled the undeveloped film to see these little people. So delicate.
SM When the little people came out what did they look like? What was your family like - were they quite artistic?
BW Sometimes I got my sisters to pose in what I thought was comic poses. my family were all artistic in their own way. My dad bought the latest gadgets including a Leica.
SM So was he the one that got you interested in cameras?
BW He took a lot of photos and cine film.
SM Did that inspire you and did he mentor you?
BW No it was my sister who actually studied photography as a first degree.
SM So explain how you got interested?
BW She taught me basic dark room techniques and she taught me when and what to cut out of photos. Brutal.
SM In what respect?
BW Anything that did not contribute to the sense or aesthetic of a photo was just chopped out.
SM So basically composition or focusing on the important things?
BW Yes, and she introduced me to the pictures of Cartier-Bresson, David Bailey, Bill Brandt and Don McCullen in 1965.
SM So they were very off-beat artists and probably well ahead of their time - they were more about the backwater places - the grungier underworlds - did that open your eyes a bit?
BW Yes absolutely and then I discovered the works of Ansel Adams and Edward Steichen in 1973.
SM So you must have been really young at this point in your life right? when did you get your first ever "proper" camera?
BW My first proper camera was a Miranda in 1973. It wasn't very well designed and the light meter switch kept flicking to "on" after it was put to bed. but it was in 1967 that I had a Ricoh. I used to photograph boys who were feminine while I was at school.
SM You went into acting - why was that?
BW It was better paid and easier than carpentry.
SM So where did you do carpentry? So you left school and did carpentry?
BW I left school in 1968. 1969 Davies Laing and Dick. 1-2-1 tutors in Notting Hill Gate 1970-72 Leeds Polytechnic Business Studies HND - 72-73 an Accountancy apprenticeship
SM During this time were you still having an interest in photography?
BW I worked as studio assistant to Barry Flanagan, The sculptor he was rather famous in the 70' & 80's and he taught me how to see beauty in just a stone resting on wooden blocks.
SM As an actor did that work show you a bit more about how camera work was done? Did it give you any insights?
BW I've seen DoP's take a lot of trouble with lighting only for the final film to come out dirty and murky. It was Apple computer programs that helped me to realise my artistic potential.
BW The ease of making videos and editing and processing photos and mixing the 2 together.
SM So when did you decide to take the plunge and become a "proper" photographer? and how did you go about it? was it quite expensive?
BW My Sony A7R3 cost about 5k the lenses cost 3k I thought I better find out how a DSLR works. I still don't know what all the dials and programs are for !
SM How did you prepare the room? did you have a spare one?
BW I made my bedroom into an office/studio. I sleep in the Kitchen/Living Room
SM So tell me how you made it into a studio, did you strip it?
BW I just have one wall with black and white rolls of paper hanging. The other 3 walls are just storage and shelves. I'm beginning to think I should take more external shots.
SM What about the lighting? Do you use lamps and umbrellas?
BW Oh Yeah I've got one soft box overhead and another on the floor which I put on chairs sometimes no need for lamps and umbrellas.
SM Since your first proper camera, what do you think was the most important thing that you learnt about photography was?
BW Pictures can and do lie.