Patrick Woodling

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Patrick Woodling

Introduce yourself.

My name is Patrick Woodling, I just turned 20 years old and I'm an Austin, TX based photographer.

Did skating or photos come first? When did you first get into photography?

My introduction to skateboarding was prior to shooting photos and it's just something I've done with friends for the past 10 years or so. It wasn't until I was 17 that I would say I began developing a photographic intent to how I wanted my images to look.

Do you remember what was that initial spark that got you into skating at 10 years old?

My older brothers did it for a little while, but I don't think they pursued it long enough to obtain a grasp of what it really is. But during this time, I went to Sun and Ski Sports begging my mom to let me get one too and I just stuck with it.

How do you feel Austin (and/or Texas in general) plays a role in your work?

From my experience of living back and forth between Austin and Houston, the people I skate with and photograph are those I'm heavily associated with. One way or another, they influence my photos because they're who I'm usually around shooting and mostly the reason why I originally moved to Austin from Houston.

How did you meet these friends initially? And why do you think you are so in sync with them in particular (and have remained so throughout this time)?

All my friends that are seen throughout the photos, I've met both directly and indirectly through skateboarding. It could be meeting on the first day of 6th grade art class, to a stupid college party. It's always different. Not getting along with somebody, and later on growing into the two sickest friends. Back home in Houston, a store called Southside Skateshop practically became our second home. For about two years, our clique was there everyday behind the counter hanging out. I feel that shop plays a important role in how we're all connected too. So it's not like one day I showed up at the skatepark and was like hey guys I'm your photographer now, the images happen naturally and I perceive them as documented memories of our lives to look back on. There's a trust between subject and photographer that's built and you have to respect that. Staying in tune entirely has to do with ones own character. You either get it or you don't and it's not for everyone. Also, a part of it is understanding when and when not to take a photo, to never objectify somebody. Just be a human and know that they are too, you can't force it.

Looking back through your images, there’s been a progression over the past couple years but it also feels like something you’ve been building up to. In the sense that it feels like an evolution of something that hints of were already there in the early work and that you’ve tapped into more. Do you think you’ve achieved this just by shooting more and gaining a sharper eye? Or what steps have been important to the process?

Well, mostly it was just time. It takes time to become more sensitive to your surroundings, all while attempting to understand a moment as it's happening. So in the early beginning, plenty of, what I guess I would consider now to be, mistakes were made and time gave me the space needed to improve for the sake of my own interest.

Also, through this, it made sense in my head how there's more than just the technicality of a skateboard stunt. I mean, tricks definitely are a big part of skateboarding, but I knew there was more depth to it. I became more aware of the way in which skateboarders interact, not only with each other, but also within their constantly changing environments. I set out in an attempt to portray the identities of who my friends are. In other words, an exploration inside the culture of skating.

How many of your skate photos, and just shots in general, are spontaneous in the moment compared to (somewhat) planned?

Almost none of my photos are pre-visualized, I just try to be aware of what's happening around me and let the day present itself. If people act in certain behaviors that catch my eye or I see a moment I can relate with, then I try to take a photo of it. But of course, if it's a skate photo that takes numerous tries for somebody to make a trick, then you could say that draws back from a sense of spontaneity. However, the sequence of events throughout the day that lead up to that point are always unplanned and happen very organically. We're really just going out and having fun.

How much do things like shapes, colors, and form play into that work? Because that’s something I like about your work too, is that the skateboard shots also have this kind of abstract feel to them with sometimes minimal compositions. 

I saw the way skate photographers shot, and how photographers I appreciated outside of skateboarding did it. I'd say opening myself up to a variety of influences benefitted my entire process. As opposed to a method of using fisheyes and big flashes on stands, I tried to approach photography differently. Primarily my interest in the use of more natural lighting has allowed way to emphasize on things other than just "the action." This way, I have more flexibility on photographically illustrating more visual elements within a space that somebody is skating in.

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What are some of your favorite skate videos?

Any recent clip by Chase Walker.

Who do you look up to / where do you find inspiration?

Photographers who's work that I find most influential would be, and in no particular order, Ari Marcopoulis, Larry Clark, Justin Guthrie, Ed Templeton, Yash Naik, Rowan Liebrum, Grace Ahlbom, Bruce Davidson, and Ben Colen.

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What are some of your personal goals in the near or distant future?

As far as projects go, I just hope to produce more. My close friend Yash Naik and I are putting the finishing touches on something we've had in the works for quite a while. I don't want to reveal too much information now but I'm very excited to share it with everyone soon. Other than that, my photo zine "Days Like These" is being published this month by Pomegranate Press. Just trying to keep looking forward. 

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Interview by Jack Sommer

Jack Sommer