Back in 2014, our friend, Brendan Leonard crafted a series of insightful pieces titled, “Finding Your Voice”. We decided to resurrect Brendan’s work in the form of three Throwback Thursday posts. See more of Brendan at his website semi-rad.com and on Instagram (@semi_rad). And stay tuned for Vol. 3!
With a semester of college remaining, Forest Woodward didn’t exactly know what he was going to do with his life—probably like many students.
Five years later, his email inbox is populated by big names: Climbing Magazine, Esquire, Alpinist, Men’s Health, Patagonia, Outdoor Research, Black Diamond, Surfer. He travels to beautiful places all over the world—to climb rock in Spain and Norway, climb ice in Canada’s Ghost River Valley, surf in Peru and Hawaii, and pilot a raft through the Grand Canyon (and that’s just the last year)—and brings back photos for magazine covers and ad campaigns.
What was his strategy? Did he land a prestigious internship, or work his way up as an assistant to a successful photographer, or get recruited by a commercial photo agency? Not exactly.
With one semester remaining in his studies at the University of North Carolina, Forest took his camera and moved to Sevilla, Spain, to study Spanish and sociology. He was beginning to find his way toward a photographic style, and had what he calls “a loose vision and a skill set, but no idea how to apply them.”
In Sevilla for six months, he started skipping class more and more often to head out with his camera and capture the scenes and the people on the streets and in the mountains of Andalucia.
He applied to shoot for big agencies — Aurora Photos, Getty Images, and others. Every single one of them rejected him. So he kept shooting, heading out and creating images from what inspired him. Although he didn’t have a job as a photographer, he had nothing to lose, and inspiration.
He stuck with it, traveling and shooting, and saying yes to opportunities that might not have immediate paychecks attached, but eventually led to something. His images landed in Climbing, National Geographic Adventure, the Patagonia catalog. Brands began to recognize his images. He finally ended up shooting for Getty Images. He moved to Brooklyn, to be embedded in a city full of creative energy, and promised himself he would still travel for adventures.
“I still am searching for, and inspired by, the unexpected moments of beauty in this world, the strange and beautiful people encountered, and the lessons that come in the quiet moments between the ever coveted ‘here’ and ‘there,’ he says.