10 minutes with Scott Woodward

Interviews with Photographers April 7, 2011 8:29 am

Where are you from and when did you decide to move, and why?

I grew up in the small community of Fonthill, Ontario, Canada, near the border with America. I studied economics at Queen’s University and one of my roommates was from Hong Kong. For the entire school year, he shared with me all these amazing tales of growing-up in Asia: scuba diving in the Philippines, trekking in Nepal, laying on the beach in Thailand. At that point, I’d only been on an airplane once or twice in my life, and I was captivated by his stories. So, at the end of my first year at university, I borrowed money from my father for a plane ticket and flew to Hong Kong to visit my roommate and his family. That experience changed my life, and opened my eyes to a whole new world. I promised myself that I’d return to Asia one day, and when I graduated in 1996, I did just that. I traveled around Asia for nearly a year, visiting half-a-dozen countries and relishing my adventure and the colourful and vibrant cultures I encountered along my journey. During my travels I was offered a job with Coca-Cola in Singapore. I decided to accept the role, and here I am, still in Asia nearly 15 years later.


Scott A Woodward

Scott A Woodward

When did you first know that you wanted to be a photographer?

I grew up in a house filled with photography; hanging on the walls of my childhood home are images my father has made, himself an avid and accomplished amateur photographer. When I was a young boy, he taught me how to operate a manual camera, skillfully interpret light and imaginatively compose an image. But more importantly, my dad instilled in me a sense of wonder and adventure; these are the traits that have truly made me a photographer. But it wasn’t until I moved to Asia in 1996 that the photographer in me truly awakened.

After my year of travels, I moved to Singapore to take a job with Coca- Cola, and years later I joined American Express. I spent nearly eight years employed in marketing, branding and advertising roles with these multinational organizations in Asia. Living and working in the region provided me with the opportunity to travel frequently to vibrant and exotic destinations across Asia. Carrying my camera with me everywhere I traveled, I grew to love searching for, or simply stumbling upon, unique photographic opportunities. But it was a new year’s resolution seven years ago that changed my life, and truly set me on an exciting path as a professional photographer.

It was January 2004, and I was at a Chinese New Year dinner with some colleagues from American Express when I was posed this question: If you had all the money in the world, what would you do for the rest of your life that would bring you joy? I immediately knew my answer. “I would travel around the world and take photographs,” I blurted out, without even thinking. I decided then to make photography a more significant part of my life.

I put together a portfolio of my best 100 images and started to share these with friends and industry contacts – advertising creatives, artists and other photographers – listening to their comments and incorporating their feedback
into my work.

In time I was offered some small exhibitions, then opportunities to have my photography published in local magazines, and eventually they began appearing regularly in regional and international publications. These successes encouraged me to continue pursuing my passion for photography. However, all this time I was still employed at American Express.

On December 26, 2004, the Asian tsunami decimated communities across the continent, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives. This day was also my 30th birthday. The events of that fateful day, combined with my milestone birthday, caused me to reflect on my life and take a leap of faith. I decided then to resign from my job at American Express in order to pursue my passion for photography full time. I’ve not turned back since.

 

Scott A Woodward

Scott A Woodward

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?

Lately, the first thing I do in the mornings is turn on my iPhone and login to Instragram, a fantastic social utility app that connects people who love photography and gives them a dedicated platform to share their imagery. I am constantly amazed by the unique and creative photography that people make and upload to Instagram.

Making great photographs has little to do with owning the best or most expensive equipment – the amazing photography that people produce using just their mobile phones proves this. Making compelling imagery is all in how we see a moment and interpret it in a still frame. Are we able to make something ordinary appear extraordinary by showing it differently? Are we able to make the viewer feel a physical emotion when they look at our photograph? Are we able to transport someone with us to a moment in time simply by pressing our shutter?

It inspires me to see all this creativity in the people I follow on Instagram, the large majority of whom are not “professional photographers” but rather simply people who love to take pictures. The quality of what these people produce encourages me to look at my surroundings differently, and more closely, to search harder for the beautiful within the mundane.

Photography is one of the most accessible and democratic forms of artistic expression there is; and for me, Instagram so clearly embodies this philosophy.


Scott A Woodward

Scott A Woodward

You can have one hour to photograph any living person, who would it
be?

Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao. He is the first boxer in history to win world titles in eight different weight classes, and is widely regarded as the best pound-for-pound boxer of all time. Pacquiao is an athlete, a politician, a performer and a philanthropist. His road to success is a true rags-to-riches story and an inspiration, not only to his fellow countrymen, but to people around the world. It would be amazing to spend an hour photographing him.

 

Scott A Woodward

Scott A Woodward

Any words of wisdom for the up and comer’s?

Shoot often. Experiment. Try everything. Push yourself outside your comfort level. But at the end of the day try and be true to yourself; if you are passionate about a certain type of photography, embrace it and go for it. Don’t do something that you don’t enjoy – what’s the point? If you have passion and can demonstrate that to people, they will believe in you. Look at other’s work and be inspired. But at the end of the day, try to develop a personal photographic style, a unique signature, something that you can be known for visually. Network as much as possible and meet as many people as you can. Study your local photography scene and see what people are doing. Look for openings or gaps in the market and see if you have the skills and the desire to fill them. Seek out photographers you admire. Call them. Buy them a coffee (or better yet, buy them a beer) and talk to them, ask them questions. Volunteer to intern with them or offer to assist them sometime. Learn from them. Don’t try to monetize everything you do. If it’s a good idea, but there’s no budget, sometimes you just have to go for it and trust that the universe will take care of the rest. That being said, don’t do everything for free. Love what you do, and it will show. Don’t love it, and it will show. Be a partner to your clients, not just another supplier. This will hopefully serve you well in the long run.

(Scott is located in Singapore. See more, here)

2 Comments

  • Peter Ehter

    Hi Kate,

    Great 10 min summary, from what I read you maintain a greatly elevated content throughout your blog. So great read really and hope to see more of it. Any contact details for Scott?

  • B.JEAN

    GREAT JOB SCOTT.
    we follow your work ( & we love it ). We admire your ambition and tenacity. your pictures are truly refreshing and enlightning.
    You have a very special gift for capturing the “unseen scenes”, the ones most folks walk by and don’t give a second look. Keep on, keeping on!

Leave a reply

required

required

optional