If you’re a fan of Cody Wood’s YouTube videos you’ll be familiar with his softly spoken and thoughtful presence as he discusses film photography. This is exactly how he is as he speaks to us from his new home in Amsterdam. Listening to Cody speak is a calming experience. He has a quiet assurance and a passion for his work that is contagious. In short, we find him to be very much like his photography, understated but at the same time profound.
Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself and how you got started with film photography?
Sure. I'm originally from Queensland, Australia. I moved around a lot as a kid, to Indonesia, South America, and New South Wales in Australia as well. The reason I picked up photography is that when I was around 12 or 13 I started making skate videos in the game EA Skate. That was sort of my first interaction with cameras. It was filming and editing videos. I didn’t realise what was going on at the time but I was figuring out how to frame things, how to make people look good and how to make things look nice.
Then six years later I did a film degree and as part of that I bought a camera and started taking photos around my house. So the first SD card I had just has all photos of my room and my parents room, different rooms in my house. I guess I kept taking photos for about three years on that camera and then eventually when Willem Verbeek sort of blew up in 2019 or so, I started watching his videos and finally I took the plunge and bought a film camera. I guess that’s when I discovered the world of photography as art. Through that camera, and Willem's videos and that community of online youtube photographers I found photographers I was really inspired by. I guess that made me realise that I could make work myself, and that the photos I took could also be bodies of work, and they could be an expression of myself.
I think another thing that happened at the same time was, I made a little magazine book. I was inspired by Frank Ocean's magazine that he put out with Blonde and I made a book just with photos I found on VSCO and just some writing. I was really proud of that and I decided, okay, the next book I'm going to make is going to be with photos I take myself. So I had to get good at photography to make that happen. So it just kept happening and I never stopped taking photos.
It sounds like your photography, and videos and making zines all just kind of happened at the same time. Is that right?
Yeah. I moved out of home and into a shared house, where I met a friend who was a musician, and we just started making things together. It all just started happening at the same time. So many creative things started happening, and they all grew together. The books and the photos, and then eventually I started making videos as well. When lockdown happened and I had nothing to do, I had some spare time and I started making YouTube videos, which helped legitimize making photos and helped me take it a bit more seriously.
When you started the YouTube channel were you doing so with an aim of it becoming very successful or was it mostly just for fun?
I think in the back of my mind, yes. I always hoped a lot of people would watch the videos. But the main goal for the channel was to communicate what I do to people close to me and people all over the world. Just to show people, this is what I do, I take photos, I can make videos. Just so people would know. Many other things happened because of that but that was the main goal, just communicating who I am and what I do.
How would you describe your style of photography?
Well, I think it’s mostly an intimate cerebral type of photography. In a lot of the photos I make I'm trying to find a thought. A lot of the photos are about a thought or a feeling, before they’re about a subject. The subjects are important in my photography but I think what’s more important is the feeling you get when you look at it. So most of the photos are intimate scenes of objects, people and places that are very connected to my brain, if that makes sense.
What do you think makes a good photograph?
For me a good photograph is one that I catch myself thinking about later on. Whether it’s my photo or someone else's, if I see the photo and find myself thinking about it a week later, a month later, three months later, if it comes into my mind, that to me is a photo that I think is successful. Because it then travels with me through my life and it gains meaning based on time passing. It repeatedly coming up in my mind is. . . I think it’s a good sign that everything worked and it feels true and authentic.
You also shoot digital photos. What do you like or dislike about the different mediums?
I think film and digital are so different in what they can achieve feelings-wise. And I think film doesn’t cover everything. My practice is really about film photos, and then iPhone photos. I don’t show as many of the iPhone photos but to me they cover such broadly different spectrums of what I can express that it’s important to be doing both. It’s kind of scary to take digital photos because it doesn’t have the cool factor of film. But I don’t think film had the cool factor of film, when there was only film around. Photos are super cool, so however they’re made it’s going to be interesting.
What are your favorite cameras and film stocks to use?
I like Portra 400, as well as Lomography Color Negative ISO 800 which I've used quite a bit. Camera-wise I've really enjoyed using the RB67. It's my favorite camera. It feels so huge and taking a photo feels big and monumental. Also the photos themselves feel huge, which I love. I much prefer medium format to 35 mm in photos. It has all the best characteristics of 35 mm without the strange color cast that used to sort of make me annoyed. It has beautiful skin tones, and the way it renders light is just beautiful. It also has that cleanliness that is important to me.
The RB67 doesn’t have the portability of some cameras. So for quick pictures do you mostly use your iPhone?
Yeah, exactly. Day-to-day I just have my phone in my pocket and I take photos all day with that. And then the big boy comes out when it’s time to really take a photo. When I've thought about it for some time and decided, okay, I really want this photo.
I also have a Lomo'Instant Square Glass. I have really enjoyed using that. I took photos of all my friends and made some interesting things. It was so much fun. I've been thinking a lot about shooting in square in general. I see so many square photos and think, I wish I was using square.
How do you spend your time away from photography?
I listen to a lot of music. I’ve been making music since I was about 12 I guess and i’ve been lucky to have friends around me who are musicians. I’ve been able to collaborate with them a lot, and make a lot of really cool things. The other thing I do is video. So I make music videos, brand films and things like that. If i’m not thinking about photos it’s videos.
Do you enjoy making videos as much as photography, or does it feel more like hard work?
I do enjoy it just as much. But the difference is that you can’t do it all the time, at least in my position. Videos are so collaborative. You need other people, you need a reason, it needs to be so much more organised and official. But photography I can just do by myself. I don’t need a plan or anything. It just happens. But yeah, being in those environments with lots of people working together to make a film is an extremely rewarding experience.
My goal is to continue to work with my friends on films. To me the reason to make a film has always been to hang out with my friends and make something in a calm way. If you introduce producers, and agencies, and brands, and all these things it can get very stressful. I don’t want to live that life. I don’t want to have that stressful day-to-day environment. So the goal is just to make more films with my friends.
Do you have any exciting projects coming up that you can tell us about?
Yeah, I've always got a lot of things happening. I have a book that I've been working on since the beginning of lockdown, called Open Up. It’s a book about trying to get myself to be more of an open book with people. I’m trying to be more open and more vulnerable. That has taken up a lot of my time over the past couple of years.
Here in Amsterdam I’m also working on a project. We have this beautiful view in the apartment. I'm so lucky to have this view. I’ve got like 200 different versions of this view now, and I think I'll continue to work on that until we leave. I think it’s really interesting. There’s a book called TTP. It’s a book published by MACK about a table tennis table. A guy had a table tennis table outside of his apartment window and took heaps of photos of it over a period of time. The book is just photos of the table tennis table and how people interact with it. I see it as a parallel to that. The book would be similar to that.
I've made four books in total. The first book I made is called Arrangements. I made a zine called Reflections, which is photos from Japan and a story. And I have this current book which is called Open Up. And I have one more book called Talk to Them, They Love You, which I put out as a companion piece to an exhibition I did at the end of 2021. They’re all self published and just given to my friends.
Do you have any advice for people who want to make their own photo book or zine?
Yeah. The best thing to do is buy a five dollar notebook and get some prints, even on just office paper, print out your photos and cut them out, and put them in the book. Even that, it's not a published book, but it's a lot closer than no book. That’s what I did. I just made them and then they were there. It’s so rewarding. And then you can show them to people and it becomes a thing, and it doesn’t have to be expensive, it doesn’t even have to look nice. A book is a book, even if it’s handmade in a day.