Born in Kent and raised in London, England. Inspired by Irving Penn, Henri Cartier – Bresson, Albert Watson, Luke assisted most of London’s fashion and advertising photographers. He later went onto The London College of Printing, graduating with a distinction. After leaving LCP, Luke was commissioned by London Magazines to portray his images in fashion and beauty as well as celebrity portraits. Luke has worked in London, New York, Miami, LA, Paris, Cape Town, Germany, France, Holland, Denmark Australia and the Far East. Luke has been privileged to continually be requested by celebrities and magazines to capture and create modern stylish imagery in a relaxed and informal working environment. He continues to shoot his images worldwide.
LSA: Thank you for taking the time to talk to the Luxury Splash of Art about your interesting photography career.Tell us more about yourself.? When did you start your journey with photography?
LF: I started my interest in photography when I was about 6 years old (I am 53 years old). My uncle was a photography teacher and it was under his influence, while I was watching him in his classroom or in his studio, I discovered how magical photography can be. It was my uncle who has taught me how to develop the film and how to print the images. He has set up a dark room for me in the attic where I was creating my first images. At the same time my step father, who used to travel a lot and loved to paint, and enjoyed making short films from his travels, often lent me his camera. My step father’s brother was a cinema photographer and he created a lot of films in Greece so I was surrounded all the time by lots of people interested in film. When I was 7 years old my school ran a photographer’s competition and I took some pictures which I (myself) have processed and printed myself.
LSA: What was the project about?
LF: It was an open exhibition on an open subject (students chose whatever they wanted to photograph), so I chose to take pictures of those stuffed animals in the museum to replicate a scene in Africa. I basically photographed those animals in black and white and printed them. I won my first award at a photography exhibition at the age of 7.
LSA: What camera did you use then?
LF: At that time my stepfather used to shoot on Nikon FM which was a 35mm, so I often used his camera and three lenses: 35mm, 50mm and I think it was 80mm.
LSA: After many years passed since your first photography project what did you choose to work on to push your career as a photographer?
LF: Well, there is a little bit more history first I would like to share it if it’s OK?
At that young age my step father was encouraging me to work in business so I followed his suggestions and didn’t pursue my photography. I wish I had at such a young age. Obviously I was taking pictures all the time. I used to love shooting roller films, as it felt like when you shoot all the pictures it was like a present waiting for you to open before you develop the film. To be able to see all those wonderful pictures that you’ve photographed. So it was always very exciting for me.
LSA: So, when did you get back to your photography?
LF: At age 18 I travelled as I took some time off after completing my A levels. When I came back from travelling I decided that photography is what I truly wanted to pursue and not a business study as prompted by my step father.
LSA: How did you pursue your dream to become a photographer?
LF: I decided to go on and assist various London top photographers at the age of 19. I started the old school way where you learn the trade. My first serious assistant job was at the Click Studios which was (back in the days) the biggest fashion studios in London. Those days they had about 5 studios in London and I started as a studio assistant painting all the coves (photographic background) early in the morning. Apart from that I was generally being a studio assistant on all photographic studio matters.
After that I went on to assist periodically Sandro Hyams, the famous fashion and beauty photographer.
LSA: Would you say Sandro Hyams was your influencer at the time?
LF: No, it was a great experience to be working by his side, but he wasn’t the biggest influencer at the time.
LSA: Who impacted your photography career the most?
LF: I always loved Albert Watson work (Scottish photographer- fashion and celebrities), he was in my eyes this fantastic art and portrait photographer, he created the photography book called “Cyclops” (1994). His work is fantastic! In black and white printing, and the richness of the tone. The way he lit his portraits was beautiful. He inspired me enormously as well as Herb Ritts (American fashion photographer and director, who died in 2002) as I love his light and how he photographed portraits and celebrities. I admit that at that time those photographers were my main inspiration.
LSA: Did you go to any school to study photography?
LF: I went to London College of Printing, which works quite closely with London College of Fashion, I studied there for two years and finished my degree with distinction, and I went back to assist for a short while.
LSA: Coming back to your assisting jobs as an upcoming photographer, any big names of those who you used assist back in the days?
LF: Off course! After Click Studios, I went off and I assisted Bob Carlos Clark on and off for about 6 years. His lighting was beautiful so I definitely learned a lot from him. Later I studied lighting at Shiplake College. I basically started doing all the studio lighting for Bob. He basically would let me do all the lighting by saying: ‘this is the light I want’ then I would set it all up to shoot Polaroid images and he advised me how to tweak a few things to make them perfect. He was a very inspirational photographer, he was England’s best black and white photographer at the time. Other inspirational people I used to work with were Anthony Crickmay, who is a very famous photographer; again I was in awe of his lighting. Julien Edelstein who was a very well known celebrity portrait artist-photographer – I have assisted him for about 5 years learning the trade and gaining the skills. Summing up, I had a privilege to work with about 5 very well known famous and mostly very influential photographers during my 7 years of assisting jobs.
LSA: So, did you start your career as a fashion photographer?
LF: I would say, I was shooting more celebrities and portraits and from that, I was also shooting fashion, but I was most busy those days photographing celebrities’ portraits and features.
LSA: Any celebrities big names worth mentioning?
LF: I have photographed Ruby Wax (Ruby Wax OBE is an American-British actress, comedian, writer, mental health campaigner, and lecturer), Jo Brand (Josephine Grace Brand is an English comedian, writer, presenter and actor), also Sean Connery (Sir Sean Connery was a Scottish actor. He became known as the first actor to portray fictional British secret agent James Bond on film, starring in seven Bond films between 1962 and 1983), Paris Hilton for New Woman magazine (Paris Whitney Hilton is an American media personality, businesswoman, socialite, model, singer, actress, and DJ. She is a great-granddaughter of Conrad Hilton, the founder of Hilton Hotels). Other celebrities in my portfolio are Caprice Bourret (Lingerie Model – she has appeared in more than 250 magazines covers which include Esquire, Maxim, FHM, Vogue, GQ, Cosmopolitan, and more). I have photographed her new lingerie campaign for Debenhams. Also very famous (in 60’s & 70’s) British singer Marianne Faitfull for ID Magazine (she dated Mick Jagger between 1966-1970), Anita Pallenberg (who was a German-Italian actress, artist, and model. A style icon and “It Girl” of the 1960s and 1970s, Pallenberg was credited as the muse of the Rolling Stones, Keith Richard’s spouse for 13 years, died 2017). Both Marianne and Anita were so-called “Rolling Stones Chicks”.
LSA: Who would you say was your favorite celebrity to photograph?
LF: I loved working with Sean Connery as he was very cool, very easy to photograph, a real Scotsman, just very straight up, very interesting persona to photograph his presence in front of the camera.
LSA: Any stories on difficult celebrities on the sets?
LF: Oh yes. One time I have photographed Westlife (Westlife are an Irish boy band, which was formed 1998 in Sligo, Ireland) for one of the teens magazines. They could spend over 2 hours just putting gel in their hair for this photoshoot and it was quite tricky to convince each one of them that there was just enough gel for a simple studio shoot of the band ϑ.
LSA: Any stories on Paris Hilton photoshoot, as she was known for being a notorious diva to work with?
LF: From my experience, she was very professional to work with, we have spent a few long hours working together in the studio and I admit she was actually quite fun to photograph.
LSA: How do you connect with difficult clients?
LF: I’ve always been a very patient photographer. I believe if you are working as a professional you should be humble and listen to the client’s needs. When I was working a lot with YOU magazine, photographing various celebrities my commissioner for those shoots was this lovely lady called Eve George (Art Director for You magazine) who used to say when she was booking me for the photography session: “ Luke I have this very difficult celebrity for you to photograph and that’s why I am using you for this job”. I used to love working with her. I kind of built this name to be able to work with all those diva-like demanding celebrities and models. I am not star-struck and when I look at the person to photograph I look at them as an interesting object. I ignore their big names and fame. I believe we are all the same, human beings. We just have different jobs.
LSA: What big names magazines have you worked so far with?
LF: I worked pretty much with most magazines except for Vogue (so far). I worked with Tatler, Elle, GQ, Cosmopolitan, Harpers & Queens, Marie Claire, Glamour, ID and many many more.
LSA: I have noticed that apart from fashion, celebrities and lingerie you have also built quite a great photography portfolio shooting interiors and architecture. What makes you shift to this type of photography?
LF: If you look at photographers like Albert Watson (who was a very influential photographer in my career), he also photographed landscapes, still life, portraits. He did some fashion in some cutting edge magazines. In my eyes, being a photographer is more of an image maker and I think if you only just do one type of work, it’s a bit uncreative. I think if you are an artist and/or creative, it’s good be able to put your imagery across in all different areas. If you look at someone like Salvador Dali who was a great artist, not only did he paint, he did sculptures, and various other forms of art rather than just concentrating only on paintings. That was always my outlook to be able to move to different areas of art. That’s why I have photographed top fashion, celebrities portraits, still life, landscapes, I also shoot kids fashion and lingerie, along with interiors and product and accessories campaigns.
LSA: How do you find yourself shooting interiors then?
LF: Interiors photography is all about composition and colours, harmony and light.
LSA: What is the most difficult part of being a photographer for you?
LF: I think the hardest part is to work with people. When you have a very big team of people working with you, you become a “performing monkey” really. As a photographer it is your job to have all the images in your head, you need to have a strong plan of the shoot and be able to direct everyone to bring the best out of everyone–the best out of the photo session. With all of the work towards getting imagery, you still have to be able perform calmly in front of the model and/ or the client as well as keep the whole team motivated and happy. So the whole vibe of the shoot is moving forward in the most enjoyable manner, however underneath all of that there is quite a lot of pressure. You are dealing with making sure that the images are perfect and in line with your brief.
LSA: How would you describe your photography style?
LF: I would say I am definitely not a ‘snappy’ photographer. I tend to work better on ‘not moving objects’ in my projects. I am not a reportage photographer. I am very much a conceptual photographer where I create an image in my head and I make it happen rather than just capture an image. So my style is not a snap, snap, snap, and to hope I get a right hero shoot, my approach is very deliberate, thought throughout the session. Every time I photograph either a model or celebrity I already see the image in my head and by directing the person in front of the camera I get the exact perfect image. I would only click the camera when I feel that the image is working.
LSA: What is your favourite subject to photograph?Why people?
LF: I love photographing people. I also enjoy photographing still life, nature and interiors, but people’s photography gives me the most joy. I find people very interesting and there are so many different styles with people. I also would like to try to create a little bit of fantasy when shooting a person and get something unusual out of someone. I would say that I’d like to try and push someone, so I get something very special and different than in another photographer’s work.
LSA: What makes the good picture stand out from the average?
LF: In my opinion it is the quality of light and how you capture the image and also the atmosphere from the person you photographing. It is important how that image is executed and how it is shot technically. It is basically a combination of everything. It’s like when you are cooking and making this beautiful meal which needs good ingredients, lots of flavour, passion for cooking and correct timing. In photography it is pretty much the same – the flavour, that could be from the type of film you are processing It also needs a beautiful light to make the image glossy and show the mood which you are trying to portrait.
LSA: What kind of equipment do you use most in your photography?
LF: I always loved the analogue film, because it is sort of purest as you have to capture the image there and then. Therefore, I like black and white photography, so I shoot on medium formats at 5.4 which is a quarter plate or 10.8 half plate. I shoot on a beautiful classic wooden camera called Ebony.
LSA: So, this is the type of gear you use for all your photography?
LF: No, it is purely for my art and private type of photography projects. Most of my commercial work I shoot digitally on Phase One 100 mega pixels medium format cameras back. I found that the Phase One 100mm creates some more “film look” image, there is more clarity and more attention to detail which I love. Most of the photographers nowadays use digital equipment. Especially for commercial work like celebrity images, as most of them are very polished and massively retouched. That’s required by the modern viewer who wants to see a perfect image of the icon.
LSA: While we are on this topic, what photo editing program do you use for your photo editing?
LF: Capture One is this fantastic raw processing software which works in conjunction with Phase One and other digital cameras. I do a lot of work now on post-production using Capture One and then I do the rest of my retouching in Photoshop.
LSA: Couple of years ago (2012) you had a very successful exhibition at the Little Black Gallery in London with the theme showcasing beautifully photographed large prints of seashells. Tell us more about this exhibition?
LF: I made those beautiful large prints which were about 4- to 5-foot-high images which I hand printed them in my darkroom in conjunction with Harman Technology (which is Ilford), they were sponsoring me at the time towards the exhibition offering me all the film to be used and processed towards the images. All the prints prepared for the exhibition had to be all hand-retouched to add this spectacular end image. The exhibition was a very successful one and run for 6 weeks during which time I have managed to sell most of my prints.
LSA: Would you prefer to go back to analogue photography if you have a choice?
LF: I don’t think nowadays people (clients) give you enough time and pushing imagery further and further and photography today is coming in many different art forms like digital animations and drawing. You shoot a digital image, and you layer about three or four different images than with the Waco pen you start to redraw certain parts of that image. I think that is a fantastic creative platform which I love working on, but it is very different from the film. Today there is not much point shooting on film unless you are just going to shoot it and print it straight on the paper. Digital has come a long way and most of the clients want something more from photography than just an image. There are more and more demands to tweak the images in all sorts of ways like illustrations and graphic design, so the original image is losing its original purity.
LSA: What are you working on currently, any exciting projects or upcoming photography exhibitions?
LF: For a while now, I have been working on the new exhibition which I hope should come up next year. It is an exhibition based on Spirits or I would rather say Ghosts. The theme is based on the modern cities setting. I use the white ghost-like manikin within the night city surrounding with a long exposure of lights in locations where there are no people. I move this manikin while taking an image with a different exposure, so the object becomes translucent like a ghost or a Spirit.
LSA: What has inspired you to start on this project?
LF: I love the light at night, cities lit in the night give you this magical ghostly image. The cities become life at night with all these different colours and the way the city looks it is beautiful. There is a whole lot of stigma connected with ghosts and spirits during the night. So I tried to sort of portraying a city which is emptier during the late nights and it becomes all about ghosts.
LSA: Why did you use manikin as an object for this project?
LF: Because manikins are very sculptural, they don’t have a face, but they have a shape of the human body. That allowed me to move it around and ‘ghost it’ without any clothes or any additional objects. It is just a purely human form. In my original idea, I had a real human model in my mind whose naked body would be painted in white, but I had already many inquisitive people looking at me while I was shooting just the manikin, and the naked woman or a man in the middle of the night on the street would create too many troubles. Haha.
LSA: Looking at your portfolio I found some “street photography” images with complete strangers.
LF: I love photographing people. I spent quite a lot of time in Africa and photographed some tribal people out there and homeless people. Some of my most inspirational portraits have actually been some tribal members of the Couza tribe, like a man smoking a pipe in his village. Or local African fishermen. In general, I find people very interesting and they don’t have to be either famous or beautiful to inspire me to photograph them. I am more inspired by people’s character and personality.
LSA: Any favourite music when you are shooting or editing your photos?
LF: I like a variety of music, it really depends on my mood or the type of photography I work on at that moment. I am quite a fan of Snow Patrol, Jack Johnson – he is quite mellow, Rhianna (haha), classics like Rolling Stones and David Bowie, Pink – I quite like her, she is cool.
LSA: What do you like most about being a photographer?
LF: I like the fact that it gives you the gift of really seeing the world. Being a photographer you have to really have your eyes opened to the world and able to see things that maybe other people might just let pass. I have always been able to picture images in my head and see things in my head. When I was growing up I was very dyslexic so I wasn’t very good at literature or reading, especially when I was continuously forced to do so. I have spent lots of time using images created in my head to process the school subjects I didn’t enjoy.
LSA: What inspires you in life in general?
LF: Just simple things, by seeing the world and having an image that comes to you and things you would like to create with that image.
LSA: Are you a photographer or an artist?
LF: I believe everyone is a potential artist in their own way. I am definitely a photographer who creates art. I think people overly use the word, Artist. Whether you have a paintbrush or a camera you are creating artistic imagery.
LSoA: What does photography mean to you?
LF: For me it is something that I love whether I am doing it for myself or working with a client. It is and always has been something that I want to do until the last days of my life. I will never get bored of it. It is part of my soul. Obviously my main drive and goal is doing work for clients but I think photographing products, fashion or celebrities is all interesting because it is all about visible fantasies. You are simply creating imagery for people to sell things. Now, as I am getting older I feel I want to focus my energy on particular world issues that compel people to actually slow down to look at. Things like pollution, global warming, over congestion, natural disasters which are happening because we are not listening to what nature is trying to tell us. I would like to capture all those things in the artist way so they are not photographed as straight reportage.
LSA: So would it be part of your private project to capture those natural disasters?
LF: Yes, it would be my private project. If I can use the gift of my vision to be able to do something that maybe to get people to look and see and ‘listen’ to the story. Photography is very different from film. In a film you only see each particular image only for a few seconds, while with the photography the viewer can stop and look at the image as long as it takes. See the story the photographer is telling and make their own feelings by looking at it.
LSA: What are your current career goals?
LF: My career goal is to be able to create those fantasy images as well as the real images to show people different things from all different angles. Whether I shoot commercial work or I work on my own private projects as mentioned earlier.
LSA: What would be your advice for up and coming photographers?
LF: It is not an easy journey nowadays to be a successful photographer. But everyone who feels photography should be brave enough to follow their dreams in spite of obstacles and don’t be scared that you don’t have a 9 to 5 steady job. It is a risk of not making enough money sometimes. If you really feel the way I feel about photography, you should treat every day as inspiration for something new. It shouldn’t make any difference to you if it is Monday or Sunday, the creation never stops. It is all about living in your passion.
Interview by Ludi Holman
Website Link: Lukeforeman.com