BEHIND THE AMBASSADOR – WOODY GOOCH
Woody Gooch is a young, incredibly talented photographer with an uncanny ability to make the ordinary seem sublime, if not downright spiritual. He’s come a long way from his roots in Australia’s Sunshine Coast, now relentlessly traveling the world with his trusty Mamiya 7 and snapping awe-inspiring shots of surfers, skaters, and breathtaking natural elements.
Despite his youth, Woody has been one of the longest running RAEN Ambassadors. In the time we’ve known him, he’s traversed the globe several times, landed his work in fine art galleries, and even snuck in the time to manage a few shoots with us. He’s a nomad in the truest form, and he’s also one of the most amazing creative humans you’ll ever meet. If you’re looking to transform your perspective on the world around you, few (if any) can do it like Mr. Gooch.
We recently caught up with Woody at his home base in the mountains outside of Tokyo, Japan. Take a minute to go behind the lens and make sure to check out his incredible photos on his website and Instagram. You won’t regret it.
How did you get into photography?
I was like, 14 at the time, skating a lot with friends. My dad had bought these two cameras with his Qantas Airways points because he was flying a lot for work. So I started using one of the cameras at the local skate park with my friends and we’d go down for a couple hours and get some photos for our MySpace display pictures and stuff. Then after a while it nipped me in the butt and I realized I thoroughly enjoyed shooting a lot more than skating, and it sort of took off from there, like it kind of just extended without having any control over it.
Your photos have a really unique rhythm and minimalism to them. How would you describe your style of shooting?
It’s hard to describe. I mean, I really like approaching subjects that aren’t too confusing, where you can have something so simple, but create a complexity in the composition. Basically, creating something so minimal that it has a huge impact on the viewer, whether they take it this way or that way. I just like minimalism and being immersed in the exact moment and then also giving someone the experience I get there, too. It’s an organic process and I try not to force anything in my work.
What would you say sparks your curiosity to capture those moments?
I think it would have to be constantly being open to change. Photography itself is a tool to understanding life around you, and it’s like a second voice for me. It’s almost like a therapeutic experience with oneself.
Was there one particular experience that changed your perspective on photography?
Yeah. When I was living in Noosa, I was trying to photograph every single day – both in and out of the surf. And I got to a point where I was like, I need a lifestyle change, and that’s when I moved to Japan. More necessarily, I wanted to move here to put down my camera and experience movement and masses of people with my own eyes and not capture things with my camera, reminding myself it’s okay to not be constantly preserving moments. And I think that made me more curious and more inspired to photograph images with meaning and subject matter, instead of aimlessly shooting. Patience and time are such important factors in my photography.
How do you find balance between the personal and commercial work?
I think I can kind of balance the two pretty equally. I mean, I work in the moment too, obviously, because everything is so fast-paced nowadays. I think I work really well with things having to be shot fast. With commercial, you have to photograph a certain amount of product, so there’s an urgency. I’ve gotten really good about being able to juggle the urgency of commercial work and sitting back and being patient about personal work.
Speaking of personal projects, can you tell me about your recent work in Haiti?
Yeah. So three years ago, me, my good friend and my brother set out to do a photo book of a trip through Nepal, spending time with this nomadic family that we hung out with. We made the book, had a show, and thought we should make it an annual experience – just to step away from the commercial work. So, after Nepal I was like why don’t we go to Haiti? There’s been a lot of damage and hurt there, so let’s go over and see what we can do to help and shoot photos. The trip went really well and we ended up spontaneously meeting these Haitian rappers and we shot a music video with them, which blew up in Haiti – like 150,000 views!
So we thought, we’ve got a crew of friends there, let’s go back and photograph new subject matter and create some depth with a new project. And we tried to think of what Haiti relies on, which is religion, or more specifically voodoo. So I dug a little deeper and found out the whole entire country is pretty much 100% voodoo – like black magic related. So I thought, let’s shoot a project on black magic. We went over in the end of June for 10 days and met up with some voodoo emperors and we shot this crazy photo series of black magic. As we left, I thought to myself, “man, the stuff we’ve seen in the last week, there’s no way anyone in the world – or not many people – have had that experience.” Upon leaving, I felt like we needed to do more than just photos, because photos just wouldn’t do this justice. Like extend the feeling in a different way.
So you went back to Haiti?
Yeah. I reached out to a DOP friend in Australia and we had a few conversations about making a film. After a while I just thought, let’s just fund the trip ourselves and we can handle all the creative our own way. So we went back for a week and shot a 16mm film on black magic. It was fucking crazy and the film is gonna be insane.
I know you can’t talk much about the Haiti project, but what’s your favorite photo you’ve taken in the last year?
It was actually on the RAEN campaign. It had nothing to do with products, but it was these two wild horses on the beach, like head-to-toe standing in the open part of the beach. They were these dark black horses and the background was all white, and the whole thing looked like it was made in Photoshop. It looks crazy.
What’s a location or person you’d like to shoot in the next year?
I really want to shoot in Japan by my family’s place in the mountains. It’s literally a tree house where you’re so exposed to the elements. I guess I’d say I want to photograph seasonal change. And I have a lot of other ideas and stuff, but that’ll seep out in the future.