Woody Packard

Words + Pictures

What Interests Me

How I've known what to do next with my own work.

Although I use a combination of technology and design to capture an image, the hardest part is always putting something interesting in front of the lens. For me what’s interesting are the facts of biology, geology, and weather as they are expressed in landscape and close-up details. I am interested in the interaction between humans and the land, the tortoise-and-hare competition we have with a process that continues despite our efforts to control it. Recent projects have included comparisons of landscapes over time, a year-long record of the changing course of a stream, and illustrations comparing geological time to creationist time through real and invented fossils. I have a long term interest in gesture and form in close-up views of plants. I’m currently working on a series of large panoramic views of intersections in the interstate system. These roads, so important when traveling by car, take on monumental proportions when visited as a pedestrian. Their right-of-ways receive little human attention, so they are odd sanctuaries for both growth and decay.

I believe in the value of observation and science for learning basic truths about the world, and while I understand the possibilities for fallibility, I still prefer a reliance on observation to forming beliefs without it. Recording images onto media is the way we share our observations with others. It is always a leap of faith—that what is recorded will be of interest to others, that it will be interesting at a later time. The truth is that there are many images that time makes valuable, and I can neither know ahead of time which ones they are or go back and capture them later. The best I can do is to treat each opportunity with the knowledge that it will not come again. Working in a project-based way helps to guide my effort, as does a reliance on both intuition and aesthetics. I am inspired by the challenge of finding the unusual within the ordinary and subscribe to the belief that when you look hard enough, truth can be strange enough all by itself.

For most of my career I’ve had the good fortune to make my living as a professional photographer, paid to spend time looking carefully and critically, then make adjustments that will allow me to record the image that has formed in my imagination. Working as a professional, I use tools that give me the best results I can afford. For much of my career that has meant working with large-format cameras and film. Since 2002 it has meant digital capture for a list of reasons that include its control and instant feedback as well as its flexibility in the use of images, giving me the ability to move fluently between printing with archivally stable inkjet materials of practically any size, display and presentation on the screen, and on-demand printing in book form. The tools that allow this flexibility have also given me the ability to explore video and sound.