Everyone has a story—wahoo! I am officially capable of articulating a cliche! I think if we actually break down that statement and enter reality though, it should go a little more like: everyone has a deranged, damaged, rollercoaster riddle of a life that they’re trying to piece into a meaningful puzzle. I’m not convinced that anyone has their life completely together, in fact I am certain that we all face unwarranted fears, preposterous obstacles, and a good level of doubt about our very own purpose. Thankfully, we have perspective. I want to focus on the powerful properties of perspective that we all posses, whether we’re using them or not.
To introduce my perspective, my name is Rob Woodcox, I’m 22, and I’m an artist, photographer, teacher, and many other titles that we don’t need to go into! In this seemingly short life I’ve lived, I’ve discovered what I’m passionate about, acquired some wonderful opportunities because of that, and ultimately gotten a glimpse at what my purpose here on Earth is. I want to take you through my story, show you how to find a hopeful perspective amidst this broken puzzle of a world, and encourage you to take that hope on to others, with whatever you do. In the beginning… ok maybe not THAT long ago, but when I was about six months old I was adopted, rescued from a household where my birth mom couldn’t take care of me. I have to be honest, prior to that event my life probably seemed pretty tragic and lost. Fortunately for me my adoptive parents saw my plight, had compassion, and changed my life forever, scooping me up from Texas and relocating me to where I currently live: Michigan.
Growing up, I faced all sorts of life struggles. In elementary school, I constantly got called girly, nerdy, and weird. Thinking back on those times, I’m surprised I didn’t quit right then and become a robot personality to fit in! A lot of the insults I faced stemmed from my tendencies to wander, daydream, and create art. I never had any interest in sports, being rough with the guys, or winning contests. However, give me a forest to explore or a pen to sketch with and I’d light up like a firecracker rearing to go! Another fortune for me, despite each mock and tease, was that I always seemed to see my advantage against my assailants. From an early point in my life my parents always assured me that I was loved and that I could do anything I set my mind to. So, when I was called “girly” I just realized that I had an advantage to understanding girls over these boys; in fact I did grow up with 3 sisters! My “weirdness” and “nerdiness” were both just qualities I possessed that these kids didn’t—they gave me a different perspective.
Now fast-forwarding to more present times, I still face fears, challenges, and doubts as we all do. I don’t need to list everything I’ve faced or failed at for you to understand, we’re all in the same boat. Every person’s struggles are the hardest struggles in the world to that person, and we all have skeletons to bury. But here’s the shining climax: we can all change our perspectives and use our broken stories to help break down the barriers of others. That statement is where my purpose lies: in photography, in friendships, and in life! I only discovered my fascination of photography about 3 years ago. Prior to that time I had never picked up a real camera other than to take point and shoot vacation photos. In fact, throughout my teen years I really had no idea what I wanted to do in life and passed through many seasons of feeling lost. I know many people can relate to this feeling, especially having just graduated from college. The world is a big free-for-all, and we are like little pinballs, easily bounced back and forth from circumstance to circumstance, job to job, place to place, never quite knowing if we’re doing it all right. I’ve found that if I stop trying so hard to plan out everything for my life, I find peace and joy in what I am able to do now. If you are lost, you examine your surroundings and rely on familiar details to guide you back home. The same thing applies to our lives. Take a moment to identify what you’ve loved in life and which things you’ve detested, and start developing that which you adore!
Having identified my clear love and gift for photography, I began finding ways to improve in the now, which has developed into what I am doing today. It started with growing strong in the technical side of photography; testing what works in lighting, learning compositional strengths, and familiarizing myself with as many tools as I could! From there I became interested in deepening the meaning and purpose behind each photograph I created. My experiments began with self-portraits to express my emotions, thoughts and beliefs, and translated into portraits of others when I acquired the confidence. All of this culminated into an intense longing to do something more, to make a difference, and to be a positive change in this world.
I have had the opportunity to have my art featured in magazines; I’m a winner in Ron Howard’s Project Imaginat10n and a nominee for the Framed Awards this year. None of these things matter if the sole purpose is to further my name and flaunt my abilities to the world. In a culture saturated with desire and fame, I want to provide something real to my fellow humanity: a realization of kindness, a trust in strength, and a discovery of love. Not the love idolized in movies but a kind of love that rescues people, a kind of love that looks beyond skin, beyond preference and circumstances—the kind of love that looked beyond the inconvenient and rescued me as no more than an infant. The project I am currently working on is deeply rooted in my history, and my current desire to positively change global society. Through the creation of photographs that depict emotion, challenges, victories, and discoveries, all in extreme and cinematic ways, I am telling the stories of children that have been abandoned, neglected, and abused. I am shedding light on the desertion, the lack of attention, the harm and abuse that these children have been put through. We can all relate in some way, on some level, and we know the pain associated with each of those circumstances. By exposing these hardships to the public, I am hoping to give these children a stronger chance at overcoming these barriers and shattering the lies they’ve begun to believe about themselves. I am bringing you and I into the picture to end the pain and replace it with hope, determination, and love. The opportunity here is to send these children to summer camp, and year-round mentoring, all of which are opportunities these children have never had. My creative team and I have initiated a live campaign called Stories Worth Telling, where money can be donated to fund this worthwhile endeavor.
You have the opportunity to change your perspective, today and every day. You are talented, gifted, and capable of changing the world in outrageously wonderful ways. I challenge you to examine the broken pieces of your life from the past and start creating a more beautiful picture by choosing to move beyond and above them. In one simple action you can make a difference in the lives of children today, and start a trend of actions to better the world. If you cannot contribute to this project financially, start thinking of ways to contribute in your own community, encouraging your neighbors, your family, and ultimately yourself. Whatever you do, remember: we can all change our perspectives and use our broken stories to break down the barriers of others!
Stories Worth Telling
To learn more, donate and get involved helping foster children, visit Rob’s campaign Stories Worth Telling: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/stories-worth-telling
To follow Rob’s art and stay updated, check out his facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/robwoodcoxphotography
Finally, check out this awesome video interview with Rob: