We Walk The Earth | Reads | Episode 31 - Rob Woodcox

A spotlight on Rob Woodcox

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A spotlight on Rob Woodcox

12 Jul, 2023
We Walk The Earth | Reads | Episode 31 - Rob Woodcox
In the latest We Walk The Earth podcast episode, professional photographer and film director Rob Woodcox explores how his current artistic process feels like he is tapping into his inner child.
From his primary years spent painting and drawing to his teenage experimentation with photography, he has always had a fascination with creativity. Growing up, he loved mixing with people and his local community. It was this safe environment that allowed him to experiment with self-expression and ultimately kindled a passion for photography which became his primary creative outlet.

Unfortunately, creativity is often stifled rather than enhanced by a Western education system that grinds down artists’ freedom to explore and find their own style in favour of adhering to process and technicality. Rob, however, sees it as a privileged foundation from which his career was born. Having received art scholarships funded by Canon, he was able to study at Washtenaw Community College, a small college in Michigan where he was provided with access to free, high quality photography equipment and professional studios.

For Rob, smaller colleges also present opportunities that larger, or typical state colleges can’t. At Washtenaw, he was relatively free from art school pressures and intensity, and instead felt like he had the freedom to explore who he was as a photographer.

Like so many creatives before him, for a long time Rob’s artistic talent wasn’t sufficient to support him financially. He worked numerous jobs in his early 20s, including for the local pizza chain and his local gym, alongside shooting weddings and family portraits.

It wasn’t until he was 23 that Rob felt he could fully invest enough time to make a career out of his photography. Starting out at a local college teaching Photoshop, he then shifted his workshops to his flourishing Flickr community, ditching his old car and upgrading to a “Mom van” to offer workshops across America.

The first tour took Rob to New York, Minneapolis, LA, Chicago and his hometown Detroit. Despite not making a fortune, for the first time Rob was able to fund his life directly from his photography, and as an added bonus, he got to see more of the country and meet people from all walks of life.

The following year, Rob was invited to join some friends on a bigger workshop tour, where he was able to apply for grants and sponsorships for the following five years, travelling to over 40 countries and teaching all over the world. He describes the experience as “feeling like an OG influencer” before it was even a term!

During a short break from travelling, Rob revisited his passion for fine art and began to focus his energy on fine photography. His relocation to Mexico coincided with a big break as his work “Tree of Life” went viral, and his career has since taken off, acquiring art dealers and holding exhibitions around the world, leading to a new show he is currently working on in collaboration with other brands and artists. For him, everything has happened organically — “It’s come from the heart,” he tells Sergio.

Rob has always been interested in the intersection of photography and film, and recalls how friends in his creative community have continually encouraged him to explore his talents on the big screen. In 2021, a chance arose to direct a beauty campaign for Dr Barbara Sturm and the Royal Ballet in London called “We Are Molecular.” Fast forward to 2023, and Rob has since directed his own film “Honey to the Moon” which is currently touring at film festivals around the world.

The film follows the journey of two lovers who rely on nature to cleanse them when things heat up and get chaotic. Filmed in Mexico by an entirely Mexican women production company, “Honey to the Moon” has since been shown in London, Mexico, Minneapolis and Provincetown, with more locations yet to be announced. Rob explains that his goal this year is to be involved in as many queer and LGBTQ+ and strategic film festivals around the world to help get the film noticed.

When Rob set out on his career, he didn’t know exactly where it would take him. One thing he knew for certain however, was that he wanted to use his work to maintain the sense of magic in the world. Growing up near a forest, he naturally spent a lot of time in nature where he still feels most at home.

“Over the last decade, I realised one of the biggest issues we’re facing as a planet is this disconnection from nature, so that's a topic I focus a lot on in my photography,” he says. With his film work, Rob aims to keep the same narrative alive while showing the intersectionality of different people groups, sexuality and gender. His goal is to make more people think about how we are all equal, and to realise that if we can’t respect each other, we are never going to respect our planet.
“A big part of society's issue is that for decades now, we’ve forced ourselves into this industrial box. The capitalistic mentality of ‘everything now, everything fast, everything mass produced’ and that’s not how nature works. Nature is a slow growing, slow moving entity that works together in harmony.”
For Rob, it was important that he had a strong personal connection with his first foray into film in order to have something to build upon in the future. He shares how he and his team are now working on another film with a more global focus: climate change. He aims to combine his artistic style with a documentary approach to create a celebratory film that has a focus on front line communities who are successfully effecting positive climate change.
“If humanity could shift that mentality and see ourselves as this connected organism, that’s in tune with our environment, that would be the change necessary to see our planet thrive and to see us reverse all of this destruction that we’re seeing with climate change and things like that.“
As a queer man, Rob has experienced injustice firsthand, however he also recognises that to the outside world, he is another white, cis male and so benefits from the institutional privileges that come with that. He therefore believes that it’s up to him to use his work as an artist to bring people together.

As his online community reflects, most models in the industry have historically been white. “I knew I had an opportunity to share this spotlight and platform with people outside of my own experience,” Rob explains.

He began diversifying who he casted as talent and being more intentional in his selection of who he worked with to help broaden and diversify his community. He says he’s seen the importance of the creator being inclusive and opening up their platform for all. “For me, as a photographer who is looking at global narratives, there has to be a global element to that. And the world is composed of all kinds of amazingly wonderful human beings, bodies and abilities,” he says.

If you’d like to see Rob’s film “Honey to the Moon” this summer, then we highly recommend following Rob on social media as he’ll be sharing more in coming weeks. You can follow Rob over on Instagram @robwoodcoxphoto

To find out more about Rob’s background, his work as a photographer, film director and art curator, as well as how he navigates the world as a queer man and his love for nature and the world we live in, then listen to episode 31 of We Walk The Earth now “The Embrace of the Art Path with Rob Woodcox” — available wherever you get your podcasts.

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