THE UNCONVENTIONAL ALCHEMY OF GL WOOD
Updated: May 20, 2020
Fashion Photographer, GL Wood is not a fan of Photoshop. Instead, he prefers the imperfections and rough textures achieved with glue, paint, tape and scissors. When flipping through his portfolio, it’s almost impossible to fathom that a handful of simple school supplies are his weapons of choice in transforming straightforward photography into mesmerizing collage work that blurs the lines between his two loves - fashion and fine art.
Unconventional? Indeed! Yet, when you closely study the trick-of-the-eye craft that lives within each of Wood's dynamic compositions, it’s quite easy to see why his work has graced the pages of fashion giants, such as: Elle, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Nylon, GQ and W. It equally leads you to wonder, what marvelous alchemy of cut-and-paste does Wood use to achieve such unexpected visual dichotomies that seamlessly intermingled and explode with excitement.
Dying to find out? So were we. IRK just virtually caught up with Wood, where he is currently isolating in his new LA home and Wood left no detail unturned.
IRK: We are so glad to see that you are well. Where are you currently ‘isolating’ during the COVID 19 pandemic?
GL Wood: Myself, my wife and my 6-month-old daughter actually moved back to Los Angeles (from New York) in March, right when everything really went down. We barely moved in, and then the state locked-down everything.
IRK: Talk about a trifecta of change; new baby, bi-costal move and pandemic… that’s intense! And you still have to keep your photography practice moving forward - deadlines are deadlines even during a pandemic. Now that we are all staying indoors to keep safe, how has your practice shifted?
GL Wood: Funny enough, my style of practice adapts perfectly for a complete lockdown. I have a back catalog of models I have shot, along with fashion to use. The only hard part is getting images printed to collage. Because there is a lockdown, not a lot of printing stores are open. Luckily, I got a couple of shoots printed right before lockdown happened, so I have new images to work on.
IRK: If you were to give us a little peek into your ‘isolation’ studio, what are your go-to materials and tools that you have on hand?
GL Wood: Since I moved right when lockdown happened, I never got a chance to research a new office space in LA. I have had to become super minimal with a studio and workspace. I made a small office/workspace in the corner of my daughter’s room, and I have a portable background drop to use in the living room to shoot on. The go-to materials are still available. I have all that I would need in my new place, but the fact is it’s now limited to size-of-space. I am basically kicked out of the space when my daughter needs to nap, ha ha!
IRK: What are you working on right now and have you had to alter any projects in order to continue producing/completing them under our current circumstances?
GL Wood: I am working on three new concepts right now. Since getting things printed is harder to find, it has limited my process. I didn’t want to go all digital with the collage, because it looses the texture, so I have had to think of other concepts and tricks I can use to help bring something new to the table; some new textures and emotion.
IRK: What is your favorite go-to activity [other than photography/collage] that is keeping you sane while being confined indoors?
GL Wood: Definitely my 6-month-old daughter. She is at a great age now and is absorbing so much information. Secondly, I have a Moto Guzzi V7 III that I ride and work on. That has been great for getting out of the house every week.
IRK: What advice would you give others struggling with limited resources while trying to maintain their artistic practice at this time?
GL Wood: My advice would be to stick with your work. Don’t get discouraged because others are getting success before you. Your time will come. It just takes longer to get to the finish line. Also don’t be afraid to take a break from photography. Everyone needs a break from their craft to help recharge the creative juices. Having all the resources in the world, best camera, best studio, best lighting, etc. doesn’t make you a good photographer. The person makes the photographer. I have always had limited resources. I shot some of my most creative images in my small NYC apartment for 10 years with the same lighting equipment I had for 13 years. I worked with what I had and tried to be the best I could be with the tools I was given. If you can make a beautiful image with one light, a wall and an old camera, then you are set. You can handle any shoot that you are given. As long as you enjoy what you are creating, that is all that matters.
IRK: Well, since we have time to indulge these days, let’s take a look back to the evolution of your career. Can you share with us your earliest memory of when you first knew that you wanted to be an artist? How old were you and what type of work were you creating at the time?
GL Wood: As far back as I can remember I was always interested in creating art. Some of my earliest memories where when I was about 4 or 5 years old, and I would go on errands with my family. I would get bored very easily and would need something to do. My mother would hand me whatever paper and pen was available and I would doodle. Sometimes the paper wouldn’t be blank, it would be a brochure, envelope, business card, etc. and I would doodle around the prints and work within the space I was given to create whatever was in my mind. The work would be very simple; a lot of shapes and patterns to decorate the item I was handed. Sometimes I would incorporate stick figures to interact with the print on the paper. It may not have been groundbreaking work but it was an outlet for my brain.
IRK: If photography wasn’t your first love, tell us your journey of how you developed as an artist.
GL Wood: At 5 or 6-years-old, I was introduced to comic books. I loved cartoons on TV, but I didn’t realize that people hand-drew the animations. To me, the cartoons I watched just existed. It wasn’t until my parents gave me a Spiderman comic book that I realized that someone had to hand-drawn the images and it got me excited. Maybe it was the fact that it was lines and ink on paper, but it made more sense to me than animation on a TV. From there I was really focused on making comic book art. I wanted to work for Marvel or DC Comics and create my own book. Then, when I was 12, my interest transitioned from superheroes to Japanese Anime. I was obsessed with Anime, Manga and everything from Japan. My creativeness was heavily influenced by Manga style up until I went to college. Being introduced to art history and artistic techniques expanded my mind and opened up my definition of creativity. The comic book, Manga animation influence soon lost interest to me, only to be replaced by chiaroscuro, the Italian Renaissance, abstraction, Post Modernism and Pop Art.
IRK: I've heard that it was a serendipitous accident that led you to study photography in college. Can you share a little bit about that experience with us?
GL Wood: It actually wasn’t an accident. I did study photography at the University of Georgia, but I wasn’t thinking that it was something I wanted to do once college was over. I ended up taking the classes as electives because the bookmaking classes that I wanted were full. During my photography class, I was using my father’s old 1984 Minolta with a 35mm lens. It was a piece of junk. It leaked light through the lens, the meter didn’t work and I had to tape the backing of the camera closed.
In college, I wasn’t in love with photography. I was in love with mixed media. I thought of photography as another tool to use for my mixed media work, and that is how I treated it. I would experiment in the darkroom with the development of film, basically just ‘doodling’ with the techniques and bringing those outcomes into my mixed media work. My photography professor was really positive about my work and wanted me to focus on entering the photography program. I was more interested in being a Pop Artist and wanted to head in that direction.
Once I graduated college, I moved to California to look for graduate schools. At first I found it difficult getting accepted into programs, so I continued to look at schools that weren’t on my main list of choices. I remember looking at California State University, Long Beach and liked their graduate program, but I was going to have a wait another 6 months until I could start classes. While driving in Long Beach, I saw an art and design school called Brooks Collage. I sent them an email stating that I was interested in the program and would love a visit. The next day I got an email back to come meet with a faculty member in Santa Barbara - not Long Beach - which I thought must be their main campus. When I met with the faculty member, I showed him my mixed media work and he said, “Nice work, so what do you want to do here?“ I responded saying, “I would love to continue fine art, mixed media and graphic design.” To my surprise his response was confusion. He said, “Well, we don’t do that here.“ I was also confused and responded, “Isn’t this Brooks College?” and he responded, “No, we are Brooks Institute. We focus on photography.“ I realized I had emailed the wrong school! On my drive back I thought of the odds of that happening and wanted to take a ch