“One Sunday afternoon, while a friend and myself were making pictures of sunsets at Aberdeen, we saw this fisherman idling away his time in a sampan. I study his facial expression for a while, taking great notice of his many lines and wrinkles. I determined to make a character study of him for the forth-coming London Salon Exhibition in 1950.
With this in mind, I approached him and patiently persuaded him to cooperate. We finally got him into my car and drove him for more than ten miles to my studio. Before the camera, he was very self-conscious and unnatural, so I had to think fast in order to break him into the mood. I treated him like a baby and told him stories, and I questioned him about his life and family, but these tactics didn’t work this time.
He refused to say more than a few words, and stared into the camera anxiously posing for his picture. This was not the type of photograph that I wanted – I like to take lively unposed snaps. And before giving up this time, I made a final trial. I said to him:
‘I wouldn’t photograph you today, because my light is not functioning properly.’ I offered him a cigarette and told him to finish it and I’ll drive him back. He puffed and puffed till he was satisfied. In the meantime I had my electronic flash on, and my view camera loaded. I had on a long cable release, and walked away free from the camera. While he was enjoying himself, off goes the flash – this was the result. It satisfies – both the sitter and myself.” (Francis Wu, 1949)