Woody Gooch is a perfect example of when things just go right in the career of a young creative.
The handsome kid from the sunshine coast has come a long way from shooting surf photos of his mates not that long ago, and we’re going to claim a modest slice of him, as since winning our annual photo comp a few years ago things for Woody have really been pointing north. Seeing as it’s the time of our annual photo comp when we yet again ignite the search for fresh photographic talent, we thought it right to touch base with one of our favourite alumni and see how 2017 treated him. As it happens, it involved lots of travel—the accompanying photos, proof of such.
Asides from traversing the globe multiple times, 2017 is the year that Woody’s meandered into the fine art scene. I use the term “meandered” not as a negative, as casually strolling is very much the air that he exudes. Given his swift rise to a respectable standing in the photographic world and his A+ communication skills, one suspects that Woody is a little more driven than he lets on. The fine art world came knocking through a gallery in Zurich, Switzerland, called Humo. Woody held his first exhibition there at the beginning of the year, and has subsequently signed on for one a year for the next five. Anyone with any knowledge of world finance will know that Zurich is not a bad place for a young artist to gain a foothold in the relative fledgeling stage of their career.
“Right now I’m really focusing on my fine art work to produce some special stuff for that,” Woody tells me over the phone whilst on a brief visit to his hometown, Noosa. “After having my first proper exhibition it’s definitely going to be a big project for me in the years to come: to really break into that fine art world.”
Apart from mingling with the Swiss, Woody’s also been on the road for much of the year, such is the life of the in-demand freelancer with a penchant for travel. “I went to Switzerland at the beginning of the year, and from there I went back to Australia and then Hawaii and then Japan and then Uruguay and then San Francisco and then Bali and then back to Australia and then New Zealand,” Woody remembers. “Then came back to Australia and then Hawaii again and now I’m off to New York and Haiti.”
Woody admits that frantically travelling on a schedule centred around commercial jobs, as he has done for the past few years, has the tendency to spread him a little thin, especially creatively. That’s where his medium format Renaissance comes in. The photos that you see accompanying this story were all offshoots from the trips that Woody took this year, and the majority of which were shot on film. The reason being that shooting film forces Woody to take a step back and take a little more time with his photography. A luxury not afforded on commercial projects where you’re getting paid to get the job done, rather than deliver one image of subtle beauty.
“I had one trip specifically last year with Quinn (Matthews) and my brother where we were swapping the backs of Hasselblads,” Woody tells me. “They’ve got interchangeable backs—so I was shooting digital on that trip and then I’d have like 10 rolls of film and we’d swap backs when he shot. Then I shot some stuff and it really made me slow down, be in the present, and actually look at all the other things that I can see and slowly document them, rather than just shooting it and moving onto the next thing. Medium format’s really just precious time in my work right now, and I think that’s coming across when I’m working digitally as well, and making my work more considered.”
The concept of keeping everything in perspective and remembering why you got into whatever it is that you’re doing in the first place is crucial to longevity in any career. Once you hop on the professional slippery dip, it’s easy to not come up for air for a few years and suddenly realise that what you once loved has become a chore. “All of it I love doing, but since I’ve started working more commercially, stepping back and working on my own projects has been the most rewarding,” says Woody. “Removing yourself from the commercial world and focusing on rekindling your uniqueness is crucial. Going on personal trips are the best thing you could do if you’re feeling stagnant in any way.”