Forest Woodward is an old soul. Sure, it’s a cliché, but there’s no other way to describe the guy. A rising star in the hotly competitive world of adventure filmmakers and photographers, he spends the majority of his time off the grid, chasing light and hair-raising exploits. But when he manages to find his way to a signal, his Instagram account is the sort that makes National Geographic specials feel canned. It’s wild, passionate, thoughtful, and 100% from the heart. It’s just a reflection of the guy behind the lens.
You’re gonna be hearing, and seeing, a lot from Forest in the years to come, so give him a follow, get familiar by reading the interview below, and vicariously follow a life that is being well-lived.
Check out our own Instagram account, @thedailybeast, for Forest’s takeover this weekend.
How do you feel Instagram affects the way you shoot, and your career?
Instagram has affected the way I shoot by allowing me a platform to share stories, without needing to go through a traditional editorial platform. I like posting a series of multiple images over the course of a week or more – images that follow a narrative that is not “instant,” but rather form an ongoing story that people can engage in through these bite-sized doses of photos and text. I try to be cognizant of using Instagram as a place to share honest images and stories that are meaningful to me – even if I know that they won’t be the most ‘liked.’ From a career standpoint, I’ve actually met some really wonderful folks through Instagram – both clients and other creatives – and it has led me to some really fun projects and collaborations. I think Instagram has become the new business card for many photographers.
What impact do you think Instagram is having on our culture as a whole, and adventure culture in particular?
At its best Instagram can be a wonderful way to educate and inspire others, and at its worst I think it is narcissistic and depressing. It’s easy to get stuck in your feed, scrolling through other people’s adventures and feeling that your own existence is entirely inadequate. If Instagram inspires a few more folks to get out and pursue their own adventures, then that’s awesome and there’s a lot of value in that. Within the context of adventure culture I think the desire to share our adventures – often through Instagram – in some cases outweighs our desire to actually experience and be present with the adventures we’re having, and I hope we can all help to remind each other that virtual sharing isn’t as important caring for the people and places you are currently experiencing.
What have you been up to? Looks like you’ve been all over the world so far this year. How did you wind up with such a great job, and what’s next for you?
Ha! Yeah, I finally filled up my passport and had to get a new one a few weeks back so I could go to Botswana to film with the Kalahari Saan tribes. It’s been a really fun year, and I’m so grateful to have experienced so many new parts of the world with the great crew of folks that I’ve worked and traveled with. How did I end up with this job? That’s a question I wake up, pinch myself, and ask each morning. I still don’t know the answer, but what I do know is that I have been incredibly lucky to meet amazing and inspiring folks who have let me into their lives, dragged me up mountains and across deserts, taught me the value of storytelling, and shared openly of themselves. Those folks, through the audacity and beauty of their journeys, are the ones who make it so that I have a job telling their stories. What’s next for me? Well my youngest brother, Canyon, just graduated from Harvard this spring and we’re going to go run around vision questing and climbing in the big hills out west for a few months, while also working on a plan for putting our combined skills to use trying to share stories from the front lines of the climate justice movement. I’m also working on a new feature length documentary with my good friend and director Sanjay Rawal, investigating the anthropological and spiritual root of running; filming with the bushmen in Botswana, the Navajo in Arizona, and a group of running monks in Japan.
Any advice for people to take better Instagram pics?
Take photos that have a story beyond just “I was here/It was awesome/I am awesome.” Investigate stories or perspectives that speak to you and that you have unique access to. Don’t underestimate the value of your own story and journey through this world. Don’t get too carried away with filters, and work to find a consistent color pallet and format that works for you in terms of your visual aesthetics.
Who are some of your favorite / most inspiring accounts?
@Ben_Moon Ben is one of the OG’s of the adventure world, and continues to inspire me on a regular basis with the soulful and heartfelt nature of his work. Beyond his adventure work, his current portrait series on Instagram is a fascinating series featuring insights and stories from exceptional humans who have shared in his journey over the years.
@Elliotstudio Elliot might very well be the next Edward Weston - or better. Young, bright eyed, and immensely talented, his current series on Instagram, the Reckoning Days, is cut straight from the heart of America.
@Charles_Post & @Meg_Haywoodsullivan These two are the dream team in my book. Constantly making me stop and smile or think a bit deeper as they share stories, both adventurous and wild, all the while upholding an ethos of conservation and integrity in connection to the places they live and play.
@Sierraquitiquit Sierra gets the pure joy award. She has taught me a lot over the years, from how to navigate big snowy mountains to how to structure your day entirely around consuming different forms of chocolate, and her feed is a constant reminder to live in the moment and seek out the goodness and light in this world.
@Stefan_Hunt When not orchestrating elaborate banana slips photos or surfing in all fifty states of America, Stefan is busy finding other ways to make me laugh and get stoked out of my mind on life as he shares visions of the world through his colorful and ridiculously fun rose colored glasses.
@ken_etzel Watching Ken’s photography evolve over the past few years I am in awe of the work he is creating, elevating what I had previously considered the standard in “adventure photography” and making me want to toss my camera out the car window and just go climb rocks and do river and desert rat things with my friends and other #wolfeagles.