A Nanaimo photographer is willing to go just about anywhere to get the right shot.
Mike Woodworth, who has photographed people in wetlands in Myanmar, rice paddies in Vietnam and slums in India, is a finalist for the second year in a row in the World Photographic Cup.
Woodworth, 76, has always had a sense of adventure. He worked in forestry, but along the way he’s been a climbing guide in the Himalayas, a horseback tour guide in B.C.’s Chilcotin, and a whitewater rafting guide.
“I love travelling and I love photography and it’s just a passion with me,” he said.
He primarily photographs people, but that wasn’t how it started out. After a trip to Thailand, he returned there with the primary purpose of wishing to photograph landscapes such as rice paddies. After a morning when he wasn’t quite able to get the shots he had envisioned, he went to the market, and almost immediately happened upon a market woman with a face he simply had to photograph. Right after that, he spotted an old man carrying a yoke and a young girl clad in the brightest of colours. By the time he left the marketplace, photography had new meaning for him.
“All of a sudden it was faces and people,” Woodworth said.
Since then, he’s traipsed to various places in the developing world. In Myanmar, he photographed the Kayan people, whose women wear numerous brass rings around their necks, and Inle Lake, where fishermen row boats with their legs. In Mindat, he photographed old women whose faces are covered in tattoos.
“Due to other tribes coming in and kidnapping and raping them … they tried to make themselves look as ugly as they possibly could,” he said.
He travelled all the way to Namibia recently, anticipating photographing the Himba tribe.
“That ended up in a disaster, because when I got there, they were all going to a funeral about 250 miles away. So my tribe disappeared on me,” he said.
He said he doesn’t like visiting a busy city like New York, for example, but is totally comfortable in a busy city halfway around the world. He recalled a recent trip to India, arriving in Delhi.
“We got in there kind of late and the next morning, my wife, she was like, ‘We’re going to do what?’ I said, ‘We’re going to the slum,’” Woodworth said.
It was in India where he snapped the photo that gained the attention of the World Photographic Cup. Taking pictures of a young man with a cobra, Woodworth’s patience paid off when the snake turned and appeared to look the handler right in the eyes. Woodworth thinks it’s a potentially award-winning shot; no matter what, he’ll continue to pursue his passion, going off the beaten path to photograph unique people, captured in just the right light, who exist only in that place and time.
“I never just stick a camera in somebody’s face and take a picture. I’m very polite, bow to the people and ask them…” he said. “You see all kinds of character faces.”
For more on Mike Woodworth Photography, click here.