Behind The Prints with Richard Wood Photography
We recently sat down with award-winning photographer Richard Wood to discuss his most recent success at WPPI’s Annual Competition this year. Not only did he win 1st place in both Illustrative and Contemporary Portraits but he was also awarded the Grand Award for Creative Portrait Division – which is comprised of Commercial, Fashion & Beauty, Illustrative, Landscape, Portrait Contemporary, Pre-Wedding Contemporary, and Wedding Contemporary Portraits.
In addition to his most recent awards, Richard has won dozens of awards at NZIPP including Grand Master and Professional Photographer of the Year, placing at WPE, and is the Head Judge of The Portrait Masters Awards.
Inspiration: I wanted to illustrate someone struggling with themselves, I guess we call it ‘inner demons.’ An extremely exaggerated way for me to achieve this and for it to be recognized in a short amount of time by judges was to choose an exaggerated way of displaying this. I decided to use a man of the church to demonstrate a strong belief system being challenged.
Here a man of the cloth stands motionless almost as if paused in time. I could imagine the hiss of an almost mechanical door opening, where a demon-like creature emerges from behind his face to tighten the strings that are wrapped around the man’s fingers like a puppet.
The tightening of the strings forces him to cross his fingers which is often depicted as “I don’t mean it,” while he clutches his beads. His hands are stained with blood to allegorically symbolize wrongdoings that may have been done. His halo is cracked and broken. You’ll notice the frame which I photographed for this image surrounds him in an upside-down manner. Much of this image is about conflicting opposites.
Originally I wanted to display the image the other way up to show the frame up the right way, yet the man upside down. However at the end that made the brain really have to work to understand the image as we are not used to seeing things up the wrong way. The man’s elbows and beads flow over the frame. I did this to try and give the image a little more depth.
The theme of this image is very much the color red. You’ll notice your eyes start at the head where the red smoke and demon can be seen. The viewer then follows down the red strings to find the man’s red hands. To contrast this I have used muted tones of green. Green being on the opposite side of the color wheel, giving the red the extra pop.
TITLE: The Alien and The Farmer
Inspiration: My favorite series is that of The Farmer and The Alien. So far it’s a series of three. When I look back on the earlier ones I cringe a little but I’m loving the story and I still have no idea where it’s going. Every year or two I reintroduce these two characters and add to their adventure.
It started out with an image depicting a farmer who has gone outside to investigate a noise and discovered an alien stealing his chickens. To be honest I have not much recollection of where and how I developed this story but it did start with me finding an alien bust online and I knew I could create something out of this world with it.
The second image goes on to show that the farmer and alien have made friends and he has invited the alien into his home for a meal of roast chicken.
In the final image of the series, the farmer seems to have adopted the alien-like a child and shows the alien wrapped up warm on the farmer’s knee with a hot chocolate, being read a bedtime story. The chicken element is hidden in the image through the patterns on the wallpaper and the title of the book being read which also tells the story further of the farmer’s love of chickens.
It’s such a nonsensical story as such but full of whimsy and I’m really enjoying creating from something so outside of the box.
Inspiration: Initially I wanted to illustrate the interesting beginnings of the phrase scapegoat. It was started as a religious practice where a goat was laden with the sins of people and banished into the wild where supposedly the devil would devour it. The idea of showing a devil with this goat felt to be too dark, and too objective. I wanted to take on a more subjective approach and started to think about what the most unexpected appearance the devil could take, instead of the renowned red man with horns and a tail. So I used a child.
The original vision was to have the child staring back at the viewer. However whilst I was photographing this young model, she began to interact with me and as a result, I got this interesting ‘storytelling’ look with her in one of the shots. Because she had moved, she’d had a slightly different light than I had planned fall on her. I was taken back by the beauty of it and it almost appeared like one of the subjects in Da Vincis ‘Madonna of the Rocks.’ I decided to run with it and because of this change of theme, I started seeing more meaning in the image and it started to take on a whole different story. Now I had a young girl almost fully engaged in herself rather than the viewer. She appeared to have made a sacrifice and because of this thought, it started to take on a whole new meaning to me.
It questioned old archaic practices that were once accepted as normal. It challenged them largely because now there was a child in front of me who was undergoing these actions which made it peculiar and caused the viewer to stop and think. I found it made you question them more. The child has baptized herself, but in blood and points to the heavens. So to me, this image is about questioning actions. How do the actions of adults appear when undertaken by a child? This image was designed in the end to create a discussion.
It makes me think about a discussion I once read by Dan Brown. It outlined the example, where the age-old ritual of drinking Christs blood and eating his body is just very accepted. It’s accepted as it’s just always been something that was done. However, from the outside, it could be very strange if one was to never have been introduced to. This image produces the same ‘strangeness.’
TITLE: The Green Fairy
Inspiration: This image is a humorous take on the idea of the Green Fairy. The Green Fairy was a nickname given to the drink Absinthe in France. Originally the drink also had hallucinative qualities. Here a woman has overindulged and finds herself bound and being toyed with by fairies. Her expression leads the eye to a fairy who has accidentally dropped its leaf dress giving the woman quite the view and surprise amongst her already distressing situation.
Title: King Henry 8th – The Royal Portrait
Inspiration: As photographers, we always stand by the importance of recording love ones whilst we still can.
This is a humorous/dark take on this. Here we have the Royal Portraits of King Henry the 8th and one of his misfortunate wives. It appears that they were too late for the portrait and it was overlooked. There was no Photoshop then, so we see the hands of the court as they try to hold up the poor queen for her picture. Meanwhile, Henry seems to not care much at all as he’s distracted already by the flock of hair that has past him down the hallway.
The headwear on the queen I put together with cardboard, fabric, lace, and almost a whole packet of hot glue. The stitches around her neck were created firstly by applying a very soft wax, to raise the skin and then apply a cut through it. The fake homemade blood was applied and the stitches were simple pieces of cut black string and stuck onto the blood. Instructions on how to make such special effects can be found on my blog at www.richardwood.tv
We congratulate Richard on all of his awards, they are well deserved!
For more on Richard and his photography journey, read his Photographer Spotlight on the blog.
Richard Wood of Richard Wood Photography
Richard is a Grand Master of New Zealand’s NZIPP. He has been awarded the title of New Zealand Professional Photographer of the Year (overall winner of the New Zealand Iris Awards) three times. These accolades head the long list of titles and awards received from organizations and competitions around the world. Richard works as an educator, mentor, and judge for photographic industry professionals around the world. Richard is the head judge of Portrait Master Awards and an educator at The Portrait Masters.