All photos by Woody Gooch.
When you travel, the protagonists of human oddity have a habit of finding you. Woody Gooch, apart from having one of the best names in the world and breaking his ankle yesterday – skateboarding, it’s a rough game – travels a lot, and as a result has seen his share of strange goings on. The great thing about being skilled with a camera is that the weirdest things often make for the finest images. What Woody lacks in experience, being but 21 years of age, he makes up for with a unique eye and passion for what he does. Last year was the first year that Woody listed full-time photographer on his tax return. The path to freelance bliss is paved with unpaid invoices, but Woody’s been on a tear of sorts, and he’s revelling in the knowledge that casting himself into the world of the pro creative was the right thing to do. In celebration of his grand new website, Woody’s gifted us with a previously unseen photographic journal of a trip to a lesser known part of the Indonesian archipelago, and an account of how awesome his life’s been since he won the MC photo comp.
“When I got there I was wigging out,” says Woody. “It’s like freezing, and the people there don’t really look typically Indonesian. If you had a flash-look then you’d think it was Nepal or somewhere in South America. But it’s smack bang in the middle of Java, it took us two days to get there from Bali in our Land Rover.” Woody and the gang were fanging around on bikes filming a segment for the new Deus movie South of Sian. “Riding bikes there was like playing an Xbox game,” continues Woody with a chuckle. “Then out of nowhere these riders appeared, I thought that they were bandits at first. There was only thirty minutes of light left and they trotted over real quick.” It turns out that the ‘bandits’ were just locals looking to give the few Chinese and Indonesian tourists around lifts up to the smouldering volcano. Woody being somewhat of a visionary, quit tinkering around with the bikes and picked up his camera and stalked the band of riders. And the results, well. “They’re some of my favourite photos that I’ve taken,” says Woody. “That’s the rad thing about travelling, rather than just going on surf trips, you get to see everything that’s involved in a country.”
Surfing’s such a niché exploit, that anyone that takes photos of it well, is in danger of being sealed with the ‘surf photographer’ stamp, and that sucker’s hard to get off. Woody Gooch however, won’t have a problem skipping between photographic disciplines. “I don’t like being stereotyped as a surf photographer,” he says. “That’s why I moved to Japan. I’ve been living in Tokyo for four months now, and I’ve just got my artists visa.” Woody’s been balancing artistic indulgence with getting paid, as we all must, and recently shot a Mountain Dew snowboarding commercial in the fluffy Japanese powder. But, he’s also been shooting sumo wresting, and soon the yakuza. “I’ve got a mate who’s in the yakuza, and they’ve given me permission to photograph them nude before winter hits,” says Woody like it’s the most normal thing in the world.
In terms of inspiration, it’s the gritty world of photo journalism that’s been influencing WG recently. “I love documentary photography and I’ve got so much respect for that style,” says Woody. “Jonas Bendiksen, he’s a magnum photographer from Norway, and Israeli Pulitzer prizewinner Oded Balilty is amazing.” In between taking pictures of sumo wrestlers, Woody’s recently been to Morocco on a surf trip where he got chased around a carpark by a man on a camel after he tried to take his picture and his bribe of peanuts was refused. “Oh, and I just shot a lifestyle campaign for Dior with Harrison (Roach),” he says with an honest air of thinking that we mightn’t be interested in a 21-year-old from the Sunshine Coast shooting for one of the oldest and most famous couture fashion houses in the world. As for the rest of the year, Woody’s off to Liberia to shoot a street art aid initiative that pairs famous London artists with the streets and kids of one of the poorest nations in Africa, among a host of other rad projects. Even through he broke his ankle skating yesterday, Woody’s first year as a professional photographer couldn’t really have gone much better. “Ah man, I was blown away with the clients that I picked up last year, and all the opportunities that I’ve been given is just really overwhelming. I don’t have an agent so I’ve just been pulling it all together myself, and I’ve learnt so much.”
As we know, for all the glamour of travel, nothing quite beats getting home. “Ah if you don’t break your fucking ankle within 10 hours of touching down it’s the best,” says Woody. “Surfing, skating, watching my mates shitty punk bands.” Woody’d be wise to take a load off and enjoy this brief stint on the couch on the Sunshine Coast. If his current career trajectory’s anything to go by, the he’s not going to be spending a lot of time at home in the coming years.