Wu Bai (伍佰) is well-known for his energy performing music on stage as the lead guitarist and lead singer of China Blue (中國藍). However, not many people know that he is an avid photographer, and a rare breed at that, because for Wu, the only way to take pictures is with a vintage camera.
Wu, whose actual name is Wu Chun-lin (吳俊霖), said he devotes much of his time to his hobby photography.
The man, dubbed “King of Live Music” by Taiwanese fans, said he always carries at least two cameras for taking pictures when on the move.
Up to now, he has accumulated a vast collection, estimated at about 80,000 photographs. Wu said he insists on working with vintage cameras, and also processes pictures by developing the film the old-fashioned way.
He said he has a whole shelf full of vintage cameras at home, which are worth about NT$1 million (US$ 34,000).
“I am afraid to work out all the costs,” he said, when asked about the cost of purchasing and developing film.
When asked how many cameras he owns, Wu said: “It’s like asking how many guitars I have, even I don’t know the exact number.”
The public can now see for themselves his body of work with the launch on Saturday in Taipei of a photography exhibition titled “Bridge Fly Snow” (橋飛雪).
At the photography exhibition, the main thematic mural is composed of pictures of bridges, flying and snowy landscapes.
All the photographs involved taking risks, such as driving a car with one hand and taking pictures when going beneath a bridge.
For flying, the pictures were shots of looking up at the sky as a passenger on an airplane, while for the snow shots, he took pictures of the landscape at the same time as skiing.
Wu said the common element of the photographs is “danger.”
“There was pressure rising in you at those moments. So I took pictures to compensate for not being able to pause at the time to savor those moments,” he said.
The popular rocker, who is a big star in the Chinese-speaking world of Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, admitted that he has a fear of flying.
“When I take a flight, sometimes I think to myself: ‘This could be the last time,’” he said.
“I remember once we were on a flight to Hong Kong, but the airplane encountered rough turbulence, so we were diverted to land in Xiamen City [in Fujian Province],” he said.
“At that time, the airplane dived down fast at high speed, and I felt an eerie serenity through the cabin. During that minute, everyone’s nerves were on edge. That experience left a deep impression on me,” he said.
Skiing is also dangerous, he said, but added that he loves the adrenaline it brings out in him.
“When skiing, my body feels good and everything feels fine,” he said, adding that each time he heads downhill on skis, he is challenging himself to break new boundaries.
“But it is quite difficult taking photographs when skiing. It can be very cold when it is minus-20 or minus-30 degrees. When loading the film, your hands will freeze and become numb. The camera film might also snap and break because of the coldness. Other times, I cannot hold it firmly in place, so the film will drop into the snow, and I will have to dig it out of the snow,” he said.
Wu says his passion for photography helps to relieve his stresses.
“Because I am a public figure, I always get surrounded by people wherever I go. However, I am quite a private person. So photography is a release for me,” he said.