Behind The Collection: Raen x Woody Gooch

  • Style
posted by James Willmott

It’s always a very special thing when a well renowned, talented individual joins forces with a leading brand to create something unique to the market. It’s even more special when the two parties involved happen to be the family at Raen and close friend and ambassador, photographer Mr. Woody Gooch.

Known for his ability to capture perfect moments most of us would miss (or quite simply, never take notice in fine detail), Woody’s career has taken him around the world countless times, building not only his reputation both in and out of the water, but his own personal portfolio of memories once lived. Each image no doubt brings with it an epic tale, a tale that brings personal delight and also allows outsiders to have a glimpse into the world through his very own eye. In saying this, it was only a matter of time before this close friends at Raen approached him with one idea – to keep his vision going while making him one stylish cat all at the same time.

We caught up with the man behind the lens to find out more about his exploring lifestyle and his exclusive collaboration with leading visual experts, Raen Optics.

First things first, Woody. Photography. How did it all start for you? ‘When, where, why?’
Skating a lot with my friends when I was younger, parents had a camera at the house and I would bring that to the skatepark, the classic ritual would take place where we’d take photos for MySpace or Facebook. Guess it turned into something that was addicting for me to the point where I could stop my 9-5 and pursue it as a career, it has taken me across the globe and I really didn’t expect it to form into what it is now.

What was is about photography that made you want to put all your time into it?
It’s addicting, I get to travel the world, meet amazing people and see amazing places. To be appreciated by a lot of people for what I do is also up there.

What would you consider to be your photographic ‘style’? What do you want your photos to say, is there an overarching narrative to your work or do you let each shot tell its own story?
Of course, I’ve always been intrigued with being an individual and creating something where people can stop and look at for 5 minutes and relate but also feel they’ve experience a moment like this but very different. Especially with surf photography, I portray 3rd person feeling, the person that has just caught a wave and is paddling back out and is watching a mate. Relating to the feeling all people who have spent time in the water, being in a certain position, giving it more of a realistic feel but a different change to how you could see it with your eyes. Grown from surfing shots to lifestyle, documentary and all other subjects of photog to conquer.

You’re living in Japan, how’d that come about, why Japan and how has that change of scenery influenced your photography?
Been coming back here for the last 3-4 years, with my family for snow seasons. I started a close relationship with Deus in Indo, at the start of my internship I came to Japan to do an exhibition and be exposed to this side of the world that I hadn’t been familiar with. I came to Japan, made a lot of great connections and friends and made it a ritual to come back every year or two, whether it was for a holiday or work, it became something that grew on me. Then I realised I’d been coming back about 6 times a year, so it became a situation where I had to stop and think and thought if I love it so much and keep coming back maybe its somewhere I need to be located for a while, at that point in time when I was photo surfing a lot I felt I needed to put it aside for a bit and focus on other genres that I wasn’t focusing on as much as I’d like. It’s been almost a year now, been in and out a lot so haven’t explored as much as I’d like but definitely had a good feel and taste of what Japan is like. Great experience focusing on different subject instead of just surf.

What was your first camera? Have you kept some of your first shots?
It was an old Nikon D40x, really basic model back about 9 years ago. My father had two of them, playing around with basic stuff. Unfortunately I didn’t keep any shots. I had a pretty funny situation where I realised how important it was to start backing up photos, one night had a heated moment (with an ex gf) and punched my computer, lost about 30,000 photos and 10 years of collecting hip hop music. So I found out from then that paying a couple of hundred bucks to back up photos on a hard drive wasn’t too bad to know that id have 30,000 shots safe. So I don’t have any recollection of my past photographs which is a bummer!

What is your current weapon of choice?
Nikon Ambassador for the last 8-10 months, I’ve been a Nikon user from day one. Shooting with top of the range. Nikon d4 and d700 (the older model), I’ll never put down, I love that thing. I’ve created such a funny relationship with that D700 that I can never let go. Kind of swaying towards more medium format photography. I really want to learn more about it and dip my fingers into that.

What are your must have items in your camera bag?
I try pack as light as I can depending on location and how long I’m away for, only the essentials. I don’t like taking a huge bag and I try not to overload. Just a laptop, some chargers and some lenses will do.

What’s your favourite photo ever you yourself has taken?
Good question! I guess I do and I don’t, as a photographer and I guess an artist you’re forever trying to better yourself, there are definitely images that stay with me but a lot that I look at and think “aw why didn’t I see this moment!” So I’m forever jumping from photo to photo and feeling to feeling. There are a hand full of images that are quite special but none in particular. I think for my audience there are a couple of images that stand out a lot more than others.

Was there a moment where you noticed you were developing your own unique style?
I think it was more from getting feedback from people that I hadn’t asked for, from the public or online, or exhibitions. I wasn’t trying to go out of the box and be different, it was just the way I saw things. I guess that I knew it was that I wanted to see things and I wanted people to see them from my point of view but I guess it grew on people and grew on me, after a while I was looking back after receiving this feedback and it made me realise I had created a different path in surf and outside photography world. I don’t try go out and outdo myself, it’s just the way I see the world around me!

You’ve done a fair share of travelling for shoots. Where is the most beautiful-awe inspiring-take your breath away location that you’ve shot at?
I’ve spent a lot of time in the South Island in NZ, that place never deteriorates in the attraction for me, forever emerging with beauty, you just can’t get dissatisfied,. It’s the most satisfying landscape in the whole world. I love how it uniquely separates itself from the rest of the world. So yep, definitely NZ.

What inspires you to keep going with your photography?
I go through patches with my work where you’re really inspired and then not so much. The not so inspired moments allow for me create inspiration. Putting my camera down a bunch and walking around the street or looking at the ocean and not taking photos grows inspiration for me. If I miss something it’s a bummer but it’s something that makes me hungry to chase better moments and capture them. Not always having the camera then can create inspiration for me.

Do you have any favourite photographers whose work inspires you or that you just think is rad?
Yeah, surf photographers I’ve looked up to for years: Morgan Masen, Duncan Mitchell, a handful of own direction in that genre. I’ve been tied up in photo journalism, Alex Webb, Chris Anderson, Jonah Spence, Ben Dickson and Magnum photographers in the States. What I’ve been following for the last few years, immersing myself in their work and how they tell a story. It all changes daily, lots of underground photogs that inspire me also.

Do you have a preference of subject matter or locations that you love shooting? People vs. scenery, water vs. land, reef vs. beach, big waves vs small waves and what not?
I’m not narrow minded to one subject, open to a lot of genres and respect all photography and people that can photograph the way that they want freely. Nothing better than being in ocean with group of friends, being on a beach break with no one around. I can never say one subject is better than another, I love photographing everything.

Do you have any plans for the near future and/or long term? Where you see yourself or hope to see yourself 3, 5, 10 years down the track?
I can’t say I’ll be in the photo business forever but can’t think that far ahead, live in the now not tomorrow. I’m just letting it come as it comes. I’ve got a couple of cool personal projects next year, more knobs and editorials keeping busy. I’m heading back to Oz in November for a while so giving Japan a break and back to the ocean for a while, which I’m stoked on.

What’s the strangest or most memorable thing you’ve been asked to shoot?
Ahhh… I don’t know, I haven’t been asked to shoot anything too bizarre but you see a lot of whack stuff in Japan. My friend runs an Instagram account called Shabuyya meltdown, which is just a bunch of business men passed out around town or in staircases and stuff, I’ve taked some photos of some cooked people, it’s been funny. I think I’ve done more whack stuff than I’ve taken photos of.

Raen have just released the limited edition ‘RAEN + WOODY G’ sunglasses. Tell us how that whole project came to life?
I was capturing a bunch of the team riders before they knew who I was. One of the guys from the States at Raen got in touch to keep doing free content and I was frothing, any exposure is good! I thought “Yeah definitely, would be a good change to get involved with a bunch of my friends and a really cool brand”, and it grew into a good friendship with both the US and Australian sides of Raen. Now I’m an ambassador. It got to the point where they wanted me to create my own feel to the sunglasses. I was able to say yes or no, I wanted to say yes and no, I was not nervous but not sure of how I wanted to show my side of how I’d wear something to the people that would wear sunnies all the time. I was unsure but I ended up doing it and taking my time, and the end result came out epic… Super happy with the final product.

How much input did you get to have throughout the development of the project? Did you get to choose the colourway, shots for the case and polish cloth, any input in the lens size and what not?
Yeah, the whole packaging was based on an abstract feel, so I selected a bunch of photos that I thought sat well together and were simple and drawing to the eye,. That took a little while to conquer the cloth and the case. I was given a few styles to choose, the Remmy I chose was a frame that I had been wearing for over a year and I just liked true look, simple epic shape not too bg or small. Able to work with them with the Remmy, went with an off olive green, faded, subtle more gentle colour.