Resource Magazine spoke with Vanguard Professional, Rob Woodcox- who won Project Imagination with Ron Howard and Canon- about his origins with The Wild Ones, his whimsical approach to his surreal photography and his advice for aspiring photographers. See the original post here.
How did you get involved with The Wild Ones? Who initially approached you to be part of this project?
In the summer of 2013, three of my good friends and fellow photographers set out on the first Wild Ones tour, teaching eight workshops and traveling 13,000 miles around the United States. For a few years now, I’ve dreamed of teaching workshops as my passion for photography grew; I wanted to be a part of the first tour, but my job at the time wouldn’t allow it. When the tour became such a success and a second year was in the making, the team invited me to join for round two. At that point, I knew I needed to quit my job and pursue the career I wanted to be fully invested in photography.
What knowledge do you wish to pass onto other photographers on the tour? Did you receive the same advice at some point during your career?
As we travel and teach various different students, I want to pass on the idea that any individual can pursue the path they desire no matter how large or small those ambitions may seem to the people or culture around them. Many of our students are young, just starting in photography or they may be veterans looking to regain inspiration. Many people lack the courage of just taking a leap towards what they wish to do. I think if our efforts can encourage these individuals to work harder and push for their dreams, that would be a success.
I was very fortunate in college to be surrounded by supportive friends and teachers that pushed me to keep experimenting and trying new things. Quickly my hobby-level interest in photography became an obsession and eventually my passion. I’m fortunate to be spreading that to others now. One of our biggest goals for The Wild Ones is not only to share our knowledge for a short time and then leave a community behind, but rather to establish a community wherever we go, and then further connect with that community at large via online and in person relationships as time moves forward. Once a Wild One, always a Wild One!
What sort of workshops are you teaching?
The Wild Ones creative workshop is a two-day workshop experience that has a strong focus on creating fine art and portrait photography, showing the creation process from start to finish. On day one, instructors Sarah Loreth, Joel Robison, Shane Black and myself feature live shooting demos with models, including styling and makeup; our shooting locations are all beautiful outdoor gems that we’ve discovered in each city. Students then get a chance to work with the models and build their own portfolios.
Day two begins with a heavy focus on marketing, social media, and business development; basically, we lay it down for our students how to make a living as an artist. The day continues with in-depth editing demos, and then one-on-one time with the students as they process their own work. Between the two days, students get a full perspective view on how we do what we do.
What has been your favorite place on the tour so far? Any memorable experiences?
Wow, it is extremely hard to pick a favorite place. Every single place we’ve been we’ve had the most loving and kind hosts. All our students have been so eager and willing to participate to the fullest during our classes.
I suppose two of my favorite experiences though involved climbing in water; the first was at our Boston workshop, on our first day of shooting, we were near the end of class and every student had gotten a chance to shoot, however most wanted to keep shooting. Finally, one student, Nick, decided he’d be willing to climb in the nearby creek for people to take more interesting photos. Another student, Lexi, was soon egged into joining, and the two of them suffered the cold while we created fine art images of them.
The second was a similar situation. The day was almost over, however this time the entire class asked me to get into the water with one of our models, except this time the water was dirty swampy mystery water. Needless to say, I could not back down and I had to go all in and get drenched for the love of the art.
You have a whimsical approach to your photography. Some remind me of a Lost Boys, Neverland-esque portrayal. What inspired this style?
I have always been imaginative and have always seen the world a bit differently than most. When I was a kid, I always liked to draw maps of places I’d create in my head, and sometimes I’d draw vivid depictions of how I imagined the ocean, or an underground insect world, or some giant castle that I’d own one day. I think this tendency to always create other worlds transferred to my creative decisions in photography, and seeing the work of established photographers who weren’t afraid to bend the bounds of reality enticed me to bend those bounds myself.
Any specific photographers that have inspired you?
Some of the photographers old and new that have inspired me the most are Richard Avedon, Tim Walker, Eugenio Recuenco, Annie Leibovitz, Oleg Oprisco, Alex Stoddard, Rosie Hardy, and Brooke Shaden.
Describe your photographic process: how do you come up with an idea, go about taking the photo, the editing process, etc.
My process for coming up with ideas varies. Sometimes I’m in a beautiful, dark or abstract environment and I’ll imagine a visual happening on the spot. When that happens, I’ll shoot a concept right then and there.
More often, however, I location scout and keep those places in mind to develop ideas later. I’ll often just take some time to listen to music or walk through the woods, and as I let my mind drift it will envision scenes taking place in a variety of environments. That space and time alone to think allows my mind to piece ideas together. Once I have ideas, I do tend to journal them and keep a large list of concepts for future reference. I like giving my favorite concepts time to expand and grow in my mind, which also gives me time to gather resources when needed!
Once I have a concept, the actual shooting usually takes no more than an hour, unless a large set is involved and lots of changes need to be made throughout the shoot. But generally, I know what I want and can capture it relatively quickly. I may take extra sample shots to use in the editing process, let's say if the sky isn’t quite how I want it, or if I’m going to be making something float.
The editing process varies depending on the complexity of the image, however, I’d say I spend a minimum of two hours on each fine art image and probably a max of 15 hours for intricate edits.
What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?
As I mentioned before, don’t give up on your dreams and desires for your career. As you progress as an artist, only share with others the things you really enjoy doing and want to do more of. If you want to shoot engagements and not senior portraits, share engagement photographs. If you want to do fine art, share fine art and not engagements. From the very start, you are establishing an identity for yourself, and as you progress people will latch onto the vision they’ve formed of you from the beginning. Don’t be afraid to be yourself and create from within, and by doing so I believe you’ll lead the most fulfilled life possible.
Rob Woodcox, a Vanguard Professional, is a surreal portrait and fine artist who thrives on sharing his imagination and dreams with others. Follow him on Twitter, his website, or on Facebook.