ORP: Who are the writers/artists who have made you who you are?
Christopher Woods: In writing, I think the most influential writers for me have been the French existentialists and the Latin Boom writers. That said, I very much like American poets like W.S Merwin, William Stafford and Wendell Berry.
In photography, I love the WPA photographers like Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, but I also enjoy contemporaries. In painting, I very much like the work of Mark Rothko.
ORP: What are the lenses that shape your worldview?
CW: I would describe myself as an urban and rural photographer. For years I have lived both in a large city and in the country. A photograph like “Stepping into the Fog” is very much a rural image, but it also has a contemplative, even ethereal nature. I often look for that.
I also write plays. Interestingly enough, I have found stagecraft helpful when framing my photographs. Normally in a play, characters are confined in a given space. The drama or comedy transpires in that space. So when I began to take photographs later, this concept translated in a completely subconscious way. I did not realize this for some time, but I think it is true, and sometimes it is very effective and helpful.
ORP: What’s your least favorite word?
CW: The word “no,” as it can preclude growth and creativity. Writers and artists know all about rejection, and that is certainly a part of it. But to tell oneself “no” as an artist can be crushing. The important thing is to press on, to learn more about oneself, no matter what.
ORP: What’s your favorite thing that you’ve created? (line, image, story, etc.)
CW: Hard to say. I can be very pleased with something in writing, or perhaps an image, but over time my taste changes. I try to keep moving on, experimenting with form or style. I have one photograph, of a homeless woman sleeping on a doorstop in Boston, which remains a personal favorite.
ORP: What do you want to read/see more of in the world?
CW: Anything that inspires.
ORP: How do you pay it forward?
CW: I have been a writer for most of my life. Then, I was diagnosed with cancer some years ago. After surgeries and while in chemotherapy, my wife, a fine equine photographer, gave me one of her old cameras. I had always loved visual art, but had never pursued it on my own. Wasn’t writing vice enough? But I began taking photographs, and one thing led to another. I realized I could pursue both writing and photography, and sometimes I combine the two. It’s all part of the creative stream, either my own or the one we all share.
My wife and I both had cancer, in tandem. Once we completed our treatments, we felt lucky. We felt it was time to give something back. We adopted a rescue dog, a Great Pyrenees named Teddy. We trained him as a therapy dog. Together with Teddy we go to places we would have not gone before – hospitals, nursing homes, schools. I wrote about this experience in an essay that was published in THE BARK - https://thebark.com/category/author/christopher-woods.
In the end, this was a way to be thankful, to give back, and to bring some light into other lives eclipsed by darkness. We know about that kind of darkness. Best to confront it.
ORP: What is the space that has shaped you the most?
CW: Imagination. There’s much room there.
ORP: You’ve just written your autobiography. What’s the title?
CW: “Next Word, Next Image.”
Christopher Woods is a writer, teacher and photographer who lives in Houston and Chappell Hill, Texas. He has published a novel, The Dream Patch, a prose collection, Under a Riverbed Sky, and a book of stage monologues for actors, Heart Speak. His work has appeared in The Southern Review, New England Review, New Orleans Review, Columbia and Glimmer Train, among others. His photographs can be seen in his gallery -http://christopherwoods.zenfolio.com/ See his piece Stepping into the Fog from Issue 1.