Cross Country: 7 Mesmerizing Shots of the American West by DJ Reuben Wu
Band members often post photographs of the awesome places they tour, but none of their pictures are quite on par with those by this camera-toting member of Ladytron. Inspired by what he saw while on tour in the U.S, DJ and photographer Reuben Wu went on his own cross-country road trip from Chicago to San Francisco and back, hitting up places like the South Dakota Badlands and the Grand Prismatic Spring in Wyoming. What give Reuben’s photographs their special quality are the lengths he goes to for getting the perfect shot.
Map of Reuben’s recent cross country trip
While touring North America with Ladytron, Reuben was able to see many U.S. cities, but few places in between. After his band finished its most recent tour, Reuben took the opportunity to return to some of the places he didn’t get to explore before. Reuben told me over email:
Much of my early photography consisted purely of documentation of travel through touring, but gradually it shifted to a level where I started to seek out more remote places and spend my own time navigating them, completely separately from music. So this trip was an attempt to fill in those gaps, one where I was able to move more autonomously.
Reuben chose his trip locations based on an old “to-see” list of his, as well as by searching online for interesting places to visit. “Devil’s Tower was on my list since Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” he said. At the same time, many of the pictures on his trip were unplanned.
Whether planned or spontaneous, all his photographs were taken in touristy places at non-touristy times. “In the USA, it is so difficult to experience these places intimately when during the day they are so overcrowded,” Reuben said. For this reason he often didn’t start shooting until nighttime, when other visitors had left the parks. (He used an app to calculate when the moonlight would be the brightest.) “It’s an incredible experience when you’re somewhere completely by yourself, seeing a place in a way most people have no idea exists,” Reuben told me. “It’s my own way of exploring the world firsthand.”
Interestingly, Reuben often shoots on Polaroid film, enjoying the instant satisfaction of making a print right in the field. “The pictures show the marks of a journey,” he said, “and to me embody the idea of a souvenir which needs to be cared for on a journey.” Reuben also shoots on 35mm, medium format, 4×5 film, and, on occasion, digitally.
One more thing: Did you notice that a person is often featured in the center of Reuben’s photographs? These are Reuben’s intricately planned selfies.
South Dakota Badlands