Filmmaker & Photographer’s Career Is Clicking

portrait of alumnus justin wu
Photographer Justin Wu, Artsci’08, has worked with everyone from Bella Hadid to Jay-Z and Jeremy Irons.
“It was a childhood dream for me to work in film but I never thought in a million years I would be doing it.”

Looking at 2008 Queen’s biology graduate Justin Wu’s website and social media accounts is like flipping through the pages of Vogue magazine. The Paris-based photographer and filmmaker posts photos from his shoots with major fashion houses and brands like Dior, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, and Coach. His Instagram account features his photos of supermodels Bella Hadid, Winnie Harlow and Nicole Scherzy. He’s also directed videos and taken portrait photographs with Victoria Beckham, Emma Roberts, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Irons, and Willem Dafoe.

His impressive body of work is an indication of how well his career is doing right now.

He splits his time working in Paris, London, Los Angeles and New York, but says Kingston is where it all started. It was during his second year at Queen’s when he decided to pursue a career in photography instead of following his initial plan to become a doctor.

“Despite all the fun I am having right now, Queen’s was the best time of my life,” says Mr. Wu during a phone interview from Paris. “It is where I learned the most — it was transformative. I have to give a big thank you to Queen’s.”

As a teenager, he loved sketching and drawing and took up photography when he started at Queen’s. 

He credits his Victoria Hall floormate Gab Kokas, Artsci’08, for inspiring his love of photography. Together they spent many hours immersed in their art. In his first year, Mr. Kokas encouraged Mr. Wu to submit their work for a dual show at Union Gallery in Stauffer Library. 

Soon Mr. Wu branched out and held solo shows, took photos for the Queen’s Journal and Tricolour Yearbook, and was co-chair of the Queen’s Photographic Society.

His impressive work led to more shows and local awards. It was the positive feedback from the Kingston community — as well as encouragement from Mr. Kokas — that convinced Mr. Wu to focus on photography and forget about attending medical school.

justin wu Elijah Wood portrait
Actor Elijah Wood. Portrait by Justin Wu, Artsci'08.
justin wu photo in elle magazine
Justin Wu's work, as featured in Elle magazine.
victoria beckham reclining in photo by justin wu
Photograph of Victoria Beckham by alumnus Justin Wu.
actress YaoChen reclining in photo by justin wu
Actress YaoChen as shot by Justin Wu for Modern Weekly.
Willem Dafoe
Portrait of Actor Willem Dafoe by Justin Wu.
model in red dress shot by justin wu
Nicole Warne as shot by Justin Wu for luxury jewelry brand Chopard.
“(My career) is all thanks to Gab. He said I was wasting my talents following the sciences. He changed everything,” says Mr. Wu.
 
After Queen’s, Mr. Wu took business at Western University and spent his final semester on exchange in Paris. While in France, he reached out to agencies and quickly became in-demand as a fashion photographer. Soon he was shooting for many top magazines while he was still a student. What caught people in the fashion industry’s attention were several popular lip dub videos he created, including one for French Vogue, called Boys and Girls of Fashion Week. Those videos led to members of Jay-Z’s Life + Times magazine commissioning Mr. Wu to shoot a secondary version of the video Empire State of Mind.
 
While in France, Mr. Wu started attending Paris Alumni Branch activities after a chance encounter with Shane Senecal-Tremblay, Artsci’13. The two didn’t know each other very well while at Queen’s, but recognized each other on a Paris subway. Mr. Senecal-Tremblay was the Paris Branch president and encouraged Mr. Wu to reconnect with the university.
 
“The Paris Branch is a tight-knit community because we all have a common bond — Queen’s. The branch helps alumni feel at home. It’s good to meet new people and build friendships when you are in a new country. Other people use the alumni network to make business connections that can lead to new opportunities,” says Mr. Senecal-Tremblay, who recently moved to Toronto to start a new job.
 
Now Mr. Wu is entering a new stage of his career. He recently moved to Hollywood to focus on writing and directing television and film. He is currently putting the finishing touches on two feature-length movie scripts and already has something in the works with a studio. He can’t release details yet because he signed a non-disclosure agreement.
 
“There have been so many fortuitous moments that have led me to this place in my career,” says Mr. Wu. “It was a childhood dream for me to work in film but I never thought in a million years I would be doing it.” 
 
To see more samples of Mr. Wu’s work, visit his website.