Art Producers Speak: Jeff Luker

We emailed Art Buyers and Art Producers around the world asking them to submit names of established photographers who were keeping it fresh and up-and-comers who they are keeping their eye on. If you are an Art Buyer/Producer or an Art Director at an agency and want to submit a photographer anonymously for this column email: Suzanne.sease@verizon.net

Anonymous Art Producer: I nominate Jeff Luker.

This was from the Levi's Go Forth campaign I shot. This was one of my favorite photos from the campaign. We shot at this at sunrise, there is a certain wild feeling when you are racing to get a shot at dawn.

A photo from a road trip in Montana. It was such a calming place, it felt like the edge of the world.

This was part of a look book shoot for the fashion line Dust. We were shooting out in these abandoned ghost towns, as we were leaving I saw this fence where farmers had hung up coyote corpses to warn other farmers in the area.

From the same Levi's shoot. This was a fun day, we had stunt riggers build the perfect rope swing into this lake. The kid in the photo is my friend Zach. This whole shoot was really fun because I got to bring a lot of my friends along.

This lake is in Oregon, it was so remote when we were camping here, not a soul around except for serious mosquito hordes, so swimming was a nice escape from them.

This is one of my best friends. I like photographing my friends, not just because they are so important to me, but because a lot of my work is about appreciating this life and everyone you get to meet in it. So for me it makes sense to photograph those who I am close to and let the photos reflect our relationship.

A photo from an Urban Outfitters shoot I did. I was in the back of a little truck with a bunch of people, driving through a wilderness area and out of nowhere she stood up and I snapped this photo. Most of my favorite photos I have ever taken were just in moments like this, one frame, one decisive moment.

A wild horse by the side of the road. Another road trip image. I have become sort of addicted to traveling throughout the American West, there is so much to see.

Grand Canyon. I know it is a very touristy place, but I have gone several times and every time I am awe-struck, it's just that kind of place.Great Smoky Mountains. When I look at this photograph I can still remember everything about this moment, the air, the smells, the breeze, the setting sun...which reminds me the whole reason I take photos in the first place.

Great Smoky Mountains. When I look at this photograph I can still remember everything about this moment, the air, the smells, the breeze, the setting sun...which reminds me the whole reason I take photos in the first place.

How many years have you been in business?

That is sort of a hard question to answer for me, I have been taking photographs as long as I can remember, and I think every photo I have taken has in some way shaped my current path. But as far as considering it as a “business”, I guess I would have to say that within the last couple of years I have made the transition to “professional” photographer, which to me means that my main source of income now comes from photography, and I am no longer working another job to afford my photography pursuits.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?

I am self-taught by and large, I had a few photo courses in college, but I was studying filmmaking in school. Which is not to say that studying cinema did not have a great influence on my photography.

Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?

Probably William Eggleston. After I finished school, I was really dabbling in all different things, I was really into taking photos but was also writing, playing music, and trying to pursue a film career and this was on top of working whatever menial jobs I had at the time. So it was difficult to have the time and energy for everything.

Then I moved to New York and the first week I was there I saw the Eggleston retrospective at the Whitney. And something really changed inside me. I remember walking around the city after the show and just feeling like for the first time I really understood something about photography I previously hadn’t. And from then on that was it, my love affair with photography was all-consuming and said this is it, this is all I want to do.

How do you find your inspiration to be so fresh, push the envelope, stay true to yourself so that creative folks are noticing you and hiring you?

My philosophy towards making photos has always been to make the photographs that I want to see in the world. So that is what I have always done, at the end of the day regardless if other people like them at least I can be happy knowing I made the images that I wanted to see. And now these photographs exist and other people can see them too. That is really what I value, the photograph itself, there is so much that goes into one image: time, light, intention…it is really a magical thing.The fact that creative folks want to hire me was is really just a fluke, people see what I make and want to help me make more of these kinds of images and for that I will be forever grateful.

Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?

It is truly different in every situation. But yes the client and creative relationship can either be a hindrance or a blessing. Sometimes the client and creatives don’t see eye to eye and you end up doing this balancing act where the work can suffer. The best kind of client has faith in the creatives as well at the photographer and realizes they are just there to hang out, have fun and let everyone do their thing.

What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?

I try and keep my website and tumblr pages pretty recent, so a lot of people share my photographs on the internet on some social media platform or another. That is really my favorite way to share things because it feels democratic, if people like your photo they can post it to pinterest or something.

I also like making little books or small prints and sending them out. I really enjoy getting stuff like that in the mail myself, if a friend sends me a photo book or zine it really makes my day. So I try to make nice things for people, and make the thing in itself have intrinsic value, so it is not like “here’s my marketing brochure, it’s like “hey here is a nice little thing I made for you that I hope will inspire or uplift you regardless,” That way if it ends up getting you a job or not it is cool to think someone might be having a better day because they got something they enjoyed in the mail.

What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?

It seems like more and more people are just making portfolios of work to get certain kinds of jobs. My advice to them would be, “just be honest with yourself, are you making this work because you think it will get you jobs or because you are truly passionate about it? “If you truly love it and it feels like it is your voice than you have nothing to worry about.
I think everyone wants to see the same thing in art, and that is honesty. People enjoy looking at things that feel like they came from somebody’s heart and soul, that is just human nature.

Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?

I have been working on some personal projects as well as doing commissioned work. But I have plans to refocus my energy on some larger scale personal projects in the very near future.

How often are you shooting new work?

I have commissioned jobs with some frequency and then have been trying to keep personal projects going as well. I have also been trying to actually slow down a bit and be more mindful in my process. There seems to be this manic pace in the industry right now with everyone constantly posting new work, blogging, instagramming and what have you, I think everyone needs to just chill out a bit and think about what they are making and why.

Jeff Luker is an American photographer born in 1985. Originally hailing from the Pacific Northwest he now calls New York home. Luker’s work explores themes inherent to the American experience and while primarily a fine art/documentary photographer he has in the past shot commercial projects for companies including Levi’s, Urban Outfitters, Nike and Chrysler. He has shown his work in galleries both domestic and abroad and has had his photographs published in magazines such as Beautiful/Decay, Foam, Oxford American and Neon. He continually travels and photographs the small towns, back roads and wilds of America seeking out adventure. He is represented by Friend + Johnson.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter fed with helpful marketing information.  Follow her@SuzanneSease.

 

Suzanne Sease

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