Phlearn Interviews Rob Woodcox
Rob Woodcox is 22 years old, born in Texas and raised in Michigan. He was brought up to love nature, change, and being creative. These three things led Rob to his interest in photography, which sparked in the summer of 2009.
Rob is enrolled at Washtenaw Community College working towards an Associates Degree in Photography. He currently spends half his time working with kids at a church and the other half pursing photography.
Check out this awesome interview with Rob Woodcox where he talks about teaching workshops at such a young age, where he gets motivation and drive for his surrealistic photos, and how important “meaning” in a photograph really can be.
For someone so young you have accomplished so much. You have created some of the most beautiful imagery I’ve seen, developed your own style, and even taught a workshop and have more coming in the future!
Your first workshop was called “Conceptual Photography. Meaning makes a masterpiece.”
Can you tell us about why having a meaning behind a photograph is so important?
Thank you, I believe that myself and everyone else on Earth were made with a purpose, and that purpose makes each person valuable. No matter what I do in life, I want to do it because it matters, and because it benefits other people. Photography is no different. I never want to create a photograph that doesn’t speak to some deeper story or meaning. I want people to be inspired to be better and make the world a better place from the images I create. Without meaning, my photographs would just be pretty pictures and nothing more.
Can you tell us a bit about your first experience teaching a workshop? I know I would be so nervous!!
Well, you and I are quite alike then- I suppose most people would be nervous! I was pretty nervous having my first big opportunity to teach, but my excitement to pass on what I have learned outweighed the nerves. Seeing people connect with my artwork in person really made it more real for me. Knowing that so many people want to learn and grow from something I’ve been blessed with really proved to me that I am where I should be!
What is in store for your upcoming workshop on October the 20th?
In the upcoming workshop, students will get taken on a magnificent journey through my mind (although I can only coin it as magnificent because someone at the last workshop called it that!). I will be teaching how to use what you have and what you’ve experienced to create one of a kind images, and I’ll also be taking students into photoshop to get a glimpse at how to seamlessly edit surrealistic photographs.
You’ve only been interested in photography since the Summer of 2009. What was it that sparked this interest?
To be honest I’m not quite sure what sparked that interest. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, like many college kids, but from my love of doing yearbook in High School, I figured why not give photography a try? And boy am I ever glad I did! The opportunity to put my mind into a physical creation soon turned to passion.
In regards to your photography you are very active on social websites. Like Flickr, 500px, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc..
How important do you think it is to keep these sites updated?
It is very important for me to keep social media active for my artwork. Like I said, one of my main goals is to inspire others. Research shows that active social media has the potential to grow the fastest. So for me, the opportunity to reach more people by keeping active online is quite essential.
Within the past little while the popularity of your work has increased massively! How has this spike in traffic been beneficial to your work?
Having more feedback on my work definitely helps me grow and learn what people like the most. Although I create from within, and put a lot of personal meaning into images, it is important for me that my images are getting people to think. Getting more feedback helps me learn what people respond to most.
Where do you find motivation and inspiration?
Above anything else, my inspiration comes from God. I believe he created everything beautiful in the world, and I feel incredibly blessed to have my life. The love that has been shown to me even amidst the bad has proven to me that loving others and showing them that through my art is the most important mission I could have. The natural wonders in this world are also a huge inspiration to me.
Your photos have managed to fit under many different categories, such as surrealism, fashion, and conceptual.
How do you find a balance?
How does your approach differ from shooting a fashion shoot opposed to a conceptual shoot?
I like to think of myself as a conceptual fashion storyteller. When I see images in Vogue and Bazaar, etc, that tell a story through a series of images, that inspires me to create my own style in that direction. When I start with an idea and incorporate fashion that makes sense to that story, finding a balance becomes easy! Of course sometimes I just create images for the art and fun of the process, and in those cases sometimes fashion isn’t the focus. I look forward to the challenge of wrapping concepts around fashion that is presented to me.
Over the Summer you and some friends went on a road trip through the United States and Canada.
How has traveling through so many distinct locations changed your perspective on photography?
Also, how important do you think it is (as a photographer) to travel?
The possibilities that exist with photography have become even more unlimited in my mind since roadtripping. Experiencing countless wonders that are beyond words to describe has left me reeling with ideas that I want to eventually shoot. As you can see, location and environment plays a lead role in many of my images, and I love being able to use infinite landscapes to my creative advantage. For me, traveling is very necessary to broaden my mind and change the way I see the world. I think I could survive never leaving my home region, but my soul would long to see all else that exists in the world. My photography therefore is bound to that longing.
During your travels you met a lot of fellow photographers! I’ve also noticed that you’ve attended a few “photo meet-ups” (Flickr meet-ups, etc).
We know that is was lots of fun, and you probably made lots of great friends- but how have these meetings been beneficial to your practice?
How important do you think it is to collaborate and share ideas with fellow photographers?
Having the surreal privilege to meet so many artists that inspire me, and that share similar love-filled personalities, has taken my photography to another level. Not to mention I adore all my new friends! This is the summer that I grew confident of where my journey in life is headed. I may not know the details, but photography will be a huge part of it. Collaborating with others and getting to create ideas I’ve had for a long time opened my eyes to how much I truly love this craft. None of the art I have created would be possible without teaming up with other artists. No matter how outgoing or not a person is, he or she should make the best effort to collaborate with others. The things you can accomplish as a team will always outweigh what you can do alone, and the friends you gain are priceless!
Out of curiosity – in your images do you only utilize natural light? Or do you use artificial light like external flash, strobe, etc?
I use both, depending on the look I am going for. When I do use artificial light, I incorporate it in a way that seems natural. I like to create realistic surrealism- in which the tools being used to make the surreal effects are hidden and undetected by the viewer. Therefore I am glad you had to ask whether I use artificial light!
While looking through your Flickr sets I see that you actually have shot a lot with film! Do you still shoot with film somewhat regularly, or have you switched completely to digital?
The film photos you see on flickr represent my earliest work, when I was still learning what it meant to create art. I chose to learn photography through film to have an appreciation for the hard work that goes into creating successful images. I shoot all digital now, but I believe my film roots greatly impacted how I work as a photographer. I keep my shooting to a minimum and try to do as much as I can in camera to make the editing process a breeze.
With passion like yours, and such incredible support from friends, family, and fans it’s very easy to tell great things are in store for you. I know this question is a bit hard to answer, but where would you ideally like to see yourself in 5 years?
Ideally I’d love to be shaking Tim Walker and Annie Liebovitz’ hands in five years or less. I don’t see myself ever getting into a typical day job, and the diverse work that Tim and Annie have been fortunate to do is my inspiration. Clearly I have a long way to go and a lot of work ahead of me, but I look forward to every step of the journey!
Interviewed by Angela Butler