• UO Interviews: Jeff Luker

    Jeff Luker's photography makes us want to get out and explore. From the desert to the beach, cliff-jumping to skateboarding, the unifying theme behind his work is its capturing of adventure and discovery — take us along for the ride, please! 

    After working with him on our most recent men's lookbook, shot at the amazing Delaware Water Gap, we pulled Jeff aside for a few questions about exploring, trips to no-man's land, and his goals for fall.  

    Can you share more about how you came into photography? How has your work changed over time?

    My whole life I have always had an obsession with documenting things via photo or video, whether that was snapping photos at family events as a kid or making skate videos with my friends in high school. I went to film school at Emerson College in Boston, but I ended up spending all my time in the darkroom working on photo projects. After school I was kind of restless, so my friends set out and we lived on the road for several months traveling all over the country and taking photos. And then I got hooked on that whole travel vibe and just kept going on trips taking photos. Eventually people saw my work were into it, so I got asked me to be in shows and magazines and shoot commercial, fashion and editorial jobs. Not much has changed as  far as my approach, I still have the same outlook towards taking photos, but it became my full time job, so I get to focus all my energy on it. So I just feel blessed and I'm always trying to keep pushing the work to new places.

    What personal projects are you working on right now?

    I have been working on this project, the last few years, which eventually will end up as a book. The project is titled A Wilderness Condition , and it is a photographic study about the wild parts of America and our relationship with those places. It has been this ongoing project that I keep working and it seems like there is always somewhere else I want to go and shoot for it, so I am not sure when it will be done. So I don't really have a deadline but I'm just working on it continually in between shooting for other projects.

    Do you approach personal work with a concept in mind and develop work around that, or just go out and shoot and edit it down and tie it together thematically after the fact?

    My approach is pretty loose, it is just sort of always traveling and taking photos wherever I go. There are definitely places that I seek out because I want to photograph them. But I think it is important to be open and just let photos find you as well. My commissioned projects of course are more calculated because of timing and production, so I try to keep my personal work more organic and free forming and then I go back and look at all over my photos over several months and edit that together.

    What are some specific themes, concepts, or ideas that are interesting to you right now?

    I'm really into just big open spaces right now. I was driving through Idaho recently and there was this long stretch of highway that went through an old nuclear testing area, and it was just so sprawling and empty in all directions, no cars or buildings for miles. And I've been finding a lot of those places lately, sort of no man's lands, all over the west in places like Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico. I grew up on the east coast where it is super crowded and now I live in Portland, OR where it just seems like there are so many people camping and in the woods all the time you can't escape the crowds. I think as the world feels more and more crowded it has been interesting to be able to find and photograph these places that are away from everything, that really feel like the absolute middle of nowhere.

    What's your preferred format to shoot? Any particular camera, gear, accessory you are always loyal to?

    I shoot mostly 35mm film. It has always been my favorite format, just the size, dimension and the quality of the image. I always have a point and shoot film camera everywhere I go, either a Contax or a Yashica. But I'm really stoked on digital photography, so I've been shooting a lot of that too, love the Canon 5d Mk III.

    Can you talk more about your work for Urban Outfitters, past and present?

    Urban has been a huge supporter since day one which has been so rad! We have done a bunch of different projects over the years. They have always been super amazing to work with, just because it feels the creative team there is really open to letting artists do their thing and collaborate on stuff together. This last shoot we did was so fun, it felt like summer camp, hiking, canoeing, riding mopeds and jumping off rocks. We decided we wanted to shoot at dawn on top of this mountain overlook, so we all had to hike up this crazy trail at 4am in the dark, but it was worth it, nothing beats watching the sunrise from a mountaintop!

    A lot of your work is shot outdoors — definitely inspires adventures and exploring! Of all the places you've been, which do we NEED to see?

    Oh man, that is such a hard question to answer! There are so many places that are so epic and beautiful out there. But I always say if there is one view  you can not beat,  it is standing on the edge Grand Canyon and looking in. It truly feels like another world, so awe inspiring. If you can find a way to get away from the tourist hordes and find a quiet place to watch the sun go down, your mind will be blown.

    What are some other things you are interested in right now?

    Right now I'm into cold-pressed juice, going surfing more, collecting old reggae records, and hunting for chanterelle mushrooms this fall.

    Jeff's website

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