Alumnus takes WCC spirit of collaboration worldwide with photography
By SOFIA LYNCH
Before coming to Washtenaw Community College in 2009, Rob Woodcox had never used or even held a DSLR camera. The first one he picked up was rented from the college’s photography lab.
After deciding against his original career paths of aviation or urban design, Woodcox turned to the idea of photography as a career – an idea whose origins he traces back to his high school yearbook and his mother taking lots of pictures in his childhood.
“I convinced my parents to help me go to the photo program there (WCC), and I instantly fell in love with photography,” said Woodcox. “That was my first time really creating with a camera.”
His affinity for photography was clear in his transcripts at WCC. Photography instructor Terry Abrams said he took just about every photo class that he could.
“He had strong ideas about the kinds of photographs that he wanted to make, so he took the initiative to pursue the path towards making those images,” Abrams said.
“So, in other words, he wasn’t waiting for me to give him an assignment and go out and take certain kinds of pictures, but rather I pretty much just kind of got out of the way while he brought forth the images,” Abrams said.
Woodcox developed a very distinct style, which he describes as fine art, conceptual and storytelling. This development of his personal niche was clear early on in his days at WCC, Abrams pointed out.
“During my time at WCC, I made my first conceptual image that I was really proud of,”
Woodcox said. “It was a photo titled, “All in our Boxes,” and it was one of my most viewed online.”
What started as just a hobby, quickly started budding into a passion with the help of his supportive friends, Woodcox said. Rather than going to the movies in their spare time, Woodcox and his friends would go out on what he calls “photo adventures” – which consisted of going somewhere in the surrounding area they had never been and creating art.
“He was very resourceful in terms of pulling people together and organizing these sessions where he brought in people and objects and things to create his images,” Abrams said.
The idea was to be creating as a team, Woodcox explained.
This spirit of collaboration has been clear throughout Woodcox’s career. In 2013, Woodcox and a team of four friends – including Washtenaw alumni Jakob Skogheim and Tabbatha Plomaritas – started on a philanthropic art project titled “Stories Worth Telling.”
“At that point, I was pretty in love with photography and my skills had progressed pretty decently, so I was like, I need to use this to benefit something,” said Woodcox. “I had recently worked at a foster camp called Royal Family Kids Camp, and after that, it was like, I just had to do something to benefit those kids. So I decided to do a photo project.”
The project includes 20 storytelling photos to bring foster children’s stories to the general public. About half of the models the creative team used had been in the adoption system at some point, according to Woodcox. By offering art pieces as a reward for funding, Woodcox and his creative team raised $11,000 on an indiegogo.com campaign page – the exact amount a local camp needed to establish their first year.
“I definitely think ‘Stories Worth Telling’ had a huge impact on what I do because people really want to hear what you have to say if they see that you care,” Woodcox said. “So showing that I had a passion for something and kind of being raw with my own story of being adopted, I think that helped a lot more people connect to me directly and want me to be successful.”
Since then, Woodcox says his growth in his photography career has been exponential. The growth was evident in not only personal gains – like building his own career and learning to market himself – but also through the reach of his work. Woodcox went from 10,000 to 100,000 Facebook followers in the matter of three months and is now verified on Facebook.
Over the past year, Woodcox has been keeping his spirit of collaboration alive by traveling the U.S. doing meet ups with photographers of all skill levels in major cities. Most recently, Woodcox came to his hometown of Detroit. Woodcox, who now lives in Portland, Oregon, received a warm welcome from his hometown.
Gathering on Belle Isle, Woodcox and about 30 eager photographers – the largest group Woodcox has had for a meet up – met at the James Scott Memorial Fountain for an evening of learning, networking and collaborating. After Woodcox gave a demonstration of his process for a new series he’s working on, he opened up the floor for artists to collaborate together or with him.
One attendee, 22-year-old Linda Guevara, posed for Woodcox’s demonstration photo and exemplified Woodcox’s purpose for these cross-country meet ups.
“I just like being creative and being surrounded by artists. I get inspired when I meet new people,” Guevara said. “The meet up is awesome for networking, and I met so many talented people there.”
However, attendees weren’t driven there solely by a love of photography, but also a love of Woodcox.
“What I love about Rob is I think he’s very talented, but he’s also very humble,” Guevara said. “It’s really hard to find people who have such great hearts and like to give to others.”
Woodcox has had a nonstop schedule of projects, tours and meet ups this year. The rest of 2015 is booked solid, he said, but he hopes that new opportunities will arise in 2016. Beginning this year, he will be traveling to five different continents to teach and share his passion internationally.
Next on his list are three more meet ups in the U.S. and then a meet up in Seoul, South Korea.
“A year and a half ago now, I quit my part-time job and went full time with photography. I was finally at a point that I felt like I’m getting enough business, and I could do that, and I started teaching workshops, and now, I’m here today,” Woodcox said to his Detroit meet up attendees. “This year, I’ll be traveling to about five continents teaching workshops. I’m very blessed to be able to continue creating and doing what I love.”
For those interested in following Woodcox on his travels or learning more about his work, go to his website http://www.robwoodcox.com.