From Rob Woodcox's mind come some of the most sublime and unexpected images that we have seen recently. His light bodies symbolize the hope of a humanity that, despite being faced with countless battles, never gives up before the possibility of reinventing itself.
At the end of last year, Rob Woodcox launched Bodies Of Light, a 172-page coffee table book that is, in fact, a compilation of his first ten years as a professional photographer - and where we find, in addition to dozens of unforgettable images that enter through the eyes without asking permission, several collaborations with other artists, something that has marked the career of this creative whose imagination knows no limits. Currently living between New York, Los Angeles and Mexico City, Woodcox talked to Vogue about the fascination with human and geological forms, something that cuts across his path, and about the importance of making a difference in a world where, he guarantees, all of our choices, even the simplest ones, are political decisions.
What first drew you to photography?
The ability to transcribe surreal ideas in my mind in a realistic way is what originally drew me to photography. I’ve always had an active imagination; I never let that die as I got older and I became fascinated with materializing ideas using a camera and composing scenes. Photography is where I activate my inner child and allow creativity to speak through me as a natural language.
Nudity is a constant in your work. Is there any special reason for this to happen? On the other hand, how is the process of composing these images?
Nudity is the most vulnerable human expression; in a time where conversations around identity are changing for gender, race, sexuality, varying physical abilities and more, I believe bringing back the natural human form to art is important and striking. We should not be afraid to love and embrace our bodies as they are, all stereotypes and standards aside. I work very closely with models and dancers, fostering a safe space, to create compositions that are unique and send a message to viewers. I typically have a composition in mind weeks or months before the shoot and collaborate with dance instructors to arrange individuals based on ability and skill. The final choreography is achieved through a communal effort that transcends individual expression to create a more universal connection. All of my photos are shot in real time on location and some involve combining various photographs to create the final masterpiece.
What kind of reaction do you intend to provoke with your photographs?
People have expressed a feeling of shock, awe, excitement and joy when they see my photographs. I appreciate the wide range of emotions my art is able to evoke; how people respond to my photographs often depends on what they are already experiencing. Many people express peace or contemplation, others say its like I am reading their mind and affirming something they’ve been thinking about and someone once even told me my photographs were helping them stay alive through a deep depression. Provoking a reaction is inevitable with most art, but when my work pushes people to think deeply that is the ultimate feat.
You have a different aesthetic from most photographers. What inspires you? And how would you describe your work?
I would describe my work as realistic surrealism, inspired greatly by the famous surrealist artists of the 20th century, nature, and driven by my own personal experiences and daydreams. Some lead inspirations are Rene Magritte, Leonora Carrington, Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, Richard Avedon, and Tim Walker. I’ve always enjoyed painting, so when my work is referred to as “painterly” it’s one of the highest compliments.
Your website mentions a number of concerns about minorities and the importance of “making certain voices heard.” Do you consider yourself an activist?
I believe any lifestyle that goes against the norm is political, and if particular action is taken to advance political or social change, you can be deemed an activist; so yes, I would consider myself an activist. I feel very strongly that how we express our bodies, identities, and beliefs should be completely free to our own discretion and dictated by nobody else. Even simple life choices like supporting local instead of corporate, or being an artist and working for yourself, or choosing to dress differently despite social norms, these are all political decisions that contribute to activism and progression of society. I actively create bodies of work that speak on subjects I’m passionate about as an attempt to contribute to movements I support.
One of the key-themes of this issue is unity. How important is unity to you, and how important is it that we stay together?
Community is the pillar of my existence, I wouldn’t be creating my work without the support of a huge familial network of fellow creatives. It wasn’t until I discovered other people like me that I was able to embrace my identity as a queer individual, an artist, an activist. There is truly strength in numbers, and I believe our younger generations are yearning for a more inclusive and educated society. I believe now is the time to re-evaluate what we think we know about the world and to listen to people from different backgrounds. We’re all an important part of the equation that creates a beautiful, sustainable world. With all our experiences combined, we could build the most brilliant future the human race has ever lived.