An Interview With Jeff Luker
“Keep making the art you want to make, that will make you happy”, “do something new or at least true to what you believe in”, and most importantly, “be brave.” This is the advice Jeff Luker offered up to all wannabe practising artists when I interviewed him recently. Making the point that “the world doesn’t need more people making art that is on trend”, Luker played true to the main message and theme of his own work, honesty.
Jeff Luker’s photography is the rarely discovered artwork that a viewer would willingly opt to disappear and live within. With a relentless honesty and a sense of artistic integrity that many artists – both current and future – could do with learning a thing or two about, Luker creates photographs that capture fleetingly youthful moments in the split second they occur. “I want my photos to be true, not some fake version of what I think the world could be” Luker responded when I inquired as to whether he ever structures photos and shoots purposely around concepts. “At the end of the day I want to know I was there, and it happened, and it was real.” The idea of an unaltered and honest representation of reality is something that seems so overlooked in the Art World today; it’s not glamour, it’s not an unachievable lie, and there is no trickery to be found within Luker’s work, overall he perfectly achieves what he sets out to work towards with every photo, it’s honest and that’s what makes it so special.
As a self confessed “shoot first, ask questions later kind of photographer” it’s really no surprise that Luker’s photographs seem to sing of a fleeting life, with every image representing this attitude of “right time, right place and capturing that moment.” But, this sense of youth and adventure is by no means the only thing Luker wishes to represent within his work. “Now that I am getting into my later 20′s, I am not interested in youth culture in the same way” Luker stated, admitting that like all artists he wants “to keep progressing” and making “work that make sense to [him] and [his] worldview.” Personally I feel as though this sense of self within Luker’s work plays a huge role in how honest the outcome is. Luker’s main intention as an artist is to continue making work for himself – representing his own life, opinions and views – and that is what makes each photograph so true and pure, they’re his photographs.
That being said, every artist has to make money somehow, and Luker, like many others, also has many commercially creative projects under his belt. Having worked for companies such as Nike, Levis, and Urban Outfitters I had to enquire as to whether or not Luker ever felt a sense of imbalance between his own creative projects and commissioned work. To this, Luker replied “while they do sort of draw from the same place, personal Vs professional definitely have their differences”, stating “taking photos for [his] own projects is [his] first love” before adding – of course – that he also loves Commercial work as “it is such an exciting and fun process”. Overall, I think it’s more than fair to say that while working on both his own creative projects as well as commissioned work for such impressive names and labels, Luker has definitely “been pretty successful at balancing the two”.
Proving to be an artist after my own heart, Luker went on to affirm that he is a “very spontaneous person” announcing – when asked of his future plans for work – that he doesn’t “know what the next five years look like or even the next six months.” Currently working on a book about the American Wilderness Luker is hoping to allow his work to evolve and grow, naturally leading him and his photography to wherever it has to be. “I think it is so hard for people to let their work progress naturally at a pace it should,” he added, before – somewhat bravely stating – that “art and photography are just so fast paced and people are just cranking stuff out. I try to not let all that interfere with my own process.” This rather Zen approach to creating artwork of any kind seems to be something that more artists should attempt to adopt for themselves; after all, art shouldn’t be rushed just as much as it shouldn’t be created purely for the sake of money, we all need to learn to take our time, remembering to concentrate on what’s actually important.
So finally, does Jeff Luker believe Art can change the world? “Yes and no. I think art can change how we feel about the world and how we go about our lives and the choices we make. But I think we need to recognize that everything is connected. Making art is essential, spreading ideas, communicating with each other, sharing our emotions, are all so important. But at the end of the day I think what is most important to changing the world is just to be a good, kind, and compassionate person. What was it Gandhi said, ““To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.””
Jeff Luker uses his “35mm film – Kodak Portra” most often, but as a camera enthusiast he also owns a collection of other cameras including the “Yashica T4, Nikon FM2, Contax T2, Contax G2” and shoots digitally with a “Canon 5dmk3.”