Elliot Erwitt said “To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them”. This clearly resonates with NYC photographer Rich Woodson whose work puts a different perspective on the everyday details of city life…
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you first got started in photography.
I was an abstract painter for about ten years. I gave up painting after some of my initial dealings with the ‘art world’ left me feeling baffled and frustrated. Around this time, I remembered that I had an old film camera (Nikon EM) that had been among my father’s belongings when he died. That was about 10 years ago.
How would you define your style and what do you want your images to say to the viewer?
I think of myself primarily as an ‘Urban Still Life Photographer’ – but labels are silly. If I want my pictures to say anything, it’s probably something along the lines of “Hey! Look at this thing (or this arrangement of things) I took a picture of! It was here all along! You walk by this street sign, wall, doorway, potted plant, restaurant awning, tree stump, stairwell, foot ladder, ugly fence, every day and you’ve never noticed it before! Look around you! The world is full of wonder and totally ripe for discovery! Wheeeee!” Or something like that.
…getting down to work is a much more consistently beneficial impetus to creation than waiting for the tingly and effervescent but notoriously fickle magic of inspiration to take hold.
Who or what are your main sources of inspiration?
My still photography inspirations are William Eggleston, Mitch Epstein, Elliot Erwitt, Stephen Shore and Nan Goldin among many others, but I’m just as much, or more, influenced by the paintings of Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Hans Hoffman, Gerhard Richter and so on.
As for the other kind of inspiration, I don’t really believe in it; getting down to work is a much more consistently beneficial impetus to creation than waiting for the tingly and effervescent but notoriously fickle magic of inspiration to take hold.
With your street photography, what typically draws you to a scene and how do you know that there is an image there?
I walk a lot. Sometimes I notice an arrangement of objects that are balanced in an aesthetically pleasing way. I say to myself, “Yup. That’s it right there.” Then I get out my camera, look through the viewfinder, and set up the best possible framing of those objects. Sometimes the scene consists of ephemeral elements plus static ones and sometimes the scene consists of objects whose relationships to each other don’t change at all over the course of hours or weeks or years.
The only way of knowing there’s an image there worth preserving is to photograph it. Sometimes the result is a complex, pretty picture and sometimes not.
What is next for you? Are you working on any projects that you can tell us about?
The only thing I’m really working on, other than my ongoing urban still life photography project, is expanding my fashion editorial/portrait portfolio. I absolutely love collaborating with models, makeup artists, stylists and making clever, pretty pictures on the fly. It’s the best.
See more of Rich’s work at:
All images copyright Richard Woodson.