“I was always interested in capturing a moment that feels like a still from a film, but has enough information that you can gather some sense of larger story or narrative. I am a strong believer in Cartier-Bresson’s ‘decisive moment.’ That is what photography is truly about for me. And that is what makes it such a unique and powerful art form.” The enigmatic Portland-based photographer, Jeff Luker, discusses his approach to photography, where he finds inspiration, and his thirst to capture true emotion.
Is there one person who has influenced your life or work?
My grandfather was an amazing guy. He was this sort of self-actualized, ultimate role model. Kind of a Brando or Hemingway type. Handsome, rugged, but also super smart and thoughtful. He traveled the world with my grandmother—and they prioritized travel—so they visited a new place every year throughout their entire lives. They had a room in their house that was filled with artifacts and acquisitions from their trips. There was stuff from Africa, Europe, Asia, and all over the globe. It was something like you would see in Indiana Jones’s house. As a kid, growing up in a real small town, that room always filled me with this crazy inspiration to get out into the world, travel and seek adventures.
Do you find inspiration in people, places, or both?
I would say both. There are places you go and you are just blown away. And then there are people you meet who are so inspiring. Be they someone you want to photograph or someone who puts interesting ideas into your worldview. But traveling is always inspiring. When your brain sees all these new sights, for me, that is fireworks going. Everything is exciting and fresh.
What has photography taught you both as a person and about the world?
Photography has taught me about being an observational person, looking at everything and paying attention to light and the time of day. It has definitely made me appreciate the world in a different way, because when you view everything as having aesthetic value it changes how you view everyday things. It’s strange because I think the world is being photographed too much now but I think so much of it is just disposable imagery and that are brains are getting numbed by too many photos. But having to sift through so many photos everyday has also created a photographic sensibility in so many people who otherwise might not have been able to think that way. So when we find great images that we all agree are special, it feels much bigger, like this universal applause.
If you could board a plane tomorrow and travel anywhere to shoot, where would it be?
That is such a tough question because there are so many places I want to see and to shoot. But if I had to choose, I think I would go somewhere very remote. Maybe Easter Island. Or somewhere in the South Pacific that is mostly undiscovered.