Rob Woodcox's Photos Are The Lovechild Of Recurring Dreams And Lewis Carroll

Freud would have a field day with these photos.

Images courtesy of Rob Woodcox

Rob Woodcox's photography is like a mixture of Parke Harrison and Lewis Carroll. He even says in a video interview (below) "I like to think of myself of not having grown up quite yet." There's a whimsical and hypnogogic aspect to his shots, and the 23-year-old photographer believes that all his inspiration comes directly from dreams and daydreaming. 

The Michigan-based artist uses photo manipulation tactics such as The Brenizer Method and meticulous photoshopping to capture Gregory Crewdson-like images without the multi-million dollar budgets.

The Creators Project caught up with Woodcox to talk about his recurring dreams, his project that illustrated the tales of foster children through fairy tale tropes, and his plans to teach workshops throughout the country. 

The Creators Project: What was the first photo you took that you're proud of? 

Rob Woodcox: A photo called called "All In Our Boxes" (above). It's of nine different people hanging in boxes in the forest. It's one of the first images I ever created where I had a pre-thought image. It came from a daydream when I was in my living room and thinking of all these people in their own living rooms by themselves. I wanted to see them coming out of their own box in life and going into a situation with other people.

It was the first time I actually created something that looked exactly as I had imagined it. A lot of times you have an idea, and you have this perfect image, but it doesn't work out. That was the first one where it was spot on.


Have you had any gallery openings or installations? What about commissioned projects? 

Woodcox: It's a combination of these. I'm transitioning into trying to make photography a full time thing. I'm trying to quit my part time job. In the past I've mostly created my surreal art as personal work. Some has been client shoots, but the surreal stuff has been on my own time. 

I did go to a two year associate's degree in photography, but a lot of this has been done on my own time. It was community college to learn the basics and the technical aspects, but I spent a lot of time shooting three to four times a week on my own to practice and experiment.

Tell me about the techniques you use to make your images look so movie-like and fantastical.

Woodcox: I use a combination of techniques. There are a few things I do in the shooting process but I also use Photoshop quite a bit. In the shooting process I use a technique called expanding or Brenizer's Method -- you stitch together multiple images to build your scene. It allows you to take images on a fixed lens and get really close to the subject and get that dreamy, shallow depth of field, but also make the image wider by stitching them together in Photoshop.

In Photoshop I use a lot of compositing, which is taking separate images and putting them together. A lot of people ask me about when I take an image of someone floating or someone with sand blowing out of their hair and ask did you shoot a model in studio and then shoot something on location and put it together? But no I do it all on location. I often take different images shot at the same the location and put it together. It makes things easier for blending color and light. This prevents the choppiness. 

Is your surreal series actually based on your dreams? Can you elaborate on this? Do you keep a dream journal? 

Woodcox: For about a year, I kept a dream journal right next to my bed. Every time I had a dream I'd write it down. I day dream a lot too. I'll think about everything around me abstractly and these crazy images will pop into my head. I always journal everything. Even if I can't go out and create it right then, I want to create it at some point. Stuff comes to me in more peaceful moments. When I'm busy I can't come up with ideas as often. 

Do you have any recurring dreams? 

Woodcox: I did have this one dream, and I haven't created it in an image yet, but I was underwater and inside a house and behind me there were all these shadows, but every time I tried to face the shadows they would disappear. It was really creepy. That would re-occur. Maybe I'll create it one day.  

What was the most difficult shot you've ever taken? 

Woodcox: For the editing process, the "All in Our Boxes" photo or the one called "The Creation Of Light" were extremely tedious. They took the most time. For the latter [shown above], each lightbulb is a unique image, and when I shot that image I had the model pose and took that photo, then took hundreds of separate images of light bulbs, so I could have different depths and sizes floating around him. That's the first photo I ever edited where I reached the maximum file size for photoshop. It was like 2 gigabytes. 

Do you have plans for future bodies of work like your surreal series? 

Woodcox: I just finished a project called Stories Worth Telling. I illustrated the struggles that foster kids go through with surrealist images. They're on Flickr and Facebook. We did an IndieGogo for a foster camp that was opening. That was a whole series that I created. 

There's a book being released with those images also called Stories Worth Telling. And right now my focus is mostly on doing workshops. I've had the opportunity to partner with some big studios and I'm going to spend the next six months traveling and teaching workshops to people of all ages. They're very inspiration based. I did one back in August and we built a whole set on the edge of a forest with gypsies and horses and told the stories of gypsy travelers. We had students watch me shoot and then the students got to shoot themselves before we edited together. Throughout the day, students get to experience a surreal shoot. We call it storytelling photography. It's all about inspiration and storytelling at the end of the day. 

Behind The Scenes with Surreal Portrait Photographer Rob Woodcox from Mike Wilkinson on Vimeo.

For more of Woodcox's work see his website, Facebook and Flickr