Mind framed

Sunday, March 8, 2020

A bundle of dried, thin, twisted branches that spread out like wings, seemingly weightless but balanced on his bare shoulders, its heaviness wrapped around his neck and almost crowning his head. Titled Climb, it is a self-portrait of fashion and fine art photographer Rob Woodcox from his coming out series—Semblance—shot around six years ago. The image, which shows him suspended mid-air, with his arms flung behind, against a blurry backdrop of a waterfall and lofty rock face, beautifully depicts the journey of most LGBTQ+ individuals. It seems to convey the burden of stifling one’s true self and the responsibility to reveal it, and at the same time the freedom of finally coming out, in Rob’s case, as queer. As he captioned it on an online forum: “The climb will never stop, but the destinations along the way are glorious. We will toil, but it will shape us into something beautiful.”

Telling personal stories is the best way to connect with other people, Rob tells THE WEEK in an email interaction. And, that is what he did with his Stories Worth Telling series (2012) that “celebrated the journey of foster children from their darkest to lightest moments using surreal imagery”. Rob was born in Houston and grew up in Detroit; he was adopted when he was six weeks old. “When I was a teenager, I started volunteering with foster kids because I wanted them to experience hope after going through challenges much harder than what I faced as a child,” says Rob, who splits his time between Mexico City and Los Angeles when he is not travelling for work. His photo series helped raise funds for a summer camp for foster children living in group homes. “My work is all about discussing real issues and connecting with other people to make this world a little less lonely,” says Rob, 29. “As an adopted, queer artist, it only made sense to share those parts of my life with my audience.”

Rob, who started taking photos “more intentionally” when he was 19, is now coming out with his first book—Bodies of Light—to close out his 20s. And, his themes have become universal—his Interconnectivity and Dance series “talk about how we all rely on each other and are integrally connected to the world around us”. His latest series—We are Particles—focuses on “our relationship to the environment”. Stunning visuals from these three series, Semblance and exclusive work with some celebrity talents form Bodies of Light.

Rob Woodcox, fashion and fine art photographer | Sara KhalidRob Woodcox, fashion and fine art photographer | Sara Khalid
There is a surreal quality to most of Rob’s photographs, and he achieves the fantastical with something very technical—Photoshop. But it is not how most of us in this #nofilter generation use editing tools—to enhance backgrounds or one’s looks. He uses it to capture his imagination. “Just like a painter who creates from imagination, I create otherworldly images, sometimes with the aid of Photoshop,” he says. “Many of my images are completely real, all of my images are shot live on location, and [in] some [I] use a bit of Photoshop to rearrange the details and achieve the compositions I see in my head.”

And, all he sees is beauty. “My purpose was and remains to tell interesting stories that compel people and remind us of the beauty we experience every day on this planet,” he says. “There is a lot of negativity in the world, but I believe the good outshines and can conquer that.”