Jeff Luker: Go West, Young Man

26 year-old photographer Jeff Luker takes us on a tour of his favorite wide open spaces

Fishbowl // Zinzi Edmundson // 12/08/11
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By Jeff Luker

“Since I graduated from college in 2007 I have been traversing back and forth across the country pretty consistently, either east to west or north and south.” Trees and fog, Wyoming

By Jeff Luker

“That was in northern Montana, it was a very beautiful place, wide open, mountains for miles. At night the skies are filled with more stars than you ever thought possible.” Sunset, lake and mountains; Montana

By Jeff Luker

“I usually save money and then venture out into the wild with my friends, girlfriend or whoever wants to travel. So my photos are mostly my friends, travel companions, and so on.” Natalie On the Coast, Oregon

By Jeff Luker

“I like big skies and open spaces, places you never thought actually existed. I guess that is why I travel all the time, there is so much to find and see.” Coast, Northern California

By Jeff Luker

“I had been trying to shoot these bison, but they would charge if you got close. I got in the car with my brother, and lo and behold a beautiful bison emerged on the side of the road, it was so close I could have reached out and pet it. I still remember

For Jeff Luker, wanderlust ins't about escaping his home in New York City; his relentless search for sprawling American scenery is a youthful rite of passage.

Looking at a collection of Jeff Luker’s photography is very much like taking a visual vacation—or at least indulging in a world so carefree, so full of adventure, and so beautifully wrought it seems obviously false, or inconceivable in its near-perfect rendering of what post-youth, pre-commitment life should look like.

Luker himself seems aware of both the fleetingness of these moments and, with one of his trusty point-and-shoots in hand (a Yashica T4 and a Contax T2, for the geeks out there), he’s endlessly traveling, searching for epic moments and then, SNAP, taking them as his own, more or less indelibly. “I like the immediacy of these cameras, just raise it up and snap a photo,” he says, “I decided a long time ago I would rather capture something important and let it be slightly out of focus or underexposed rather than mess up the whole thing.”

Aesthetic inspiration comes from similarly rough-and-tumble American wanderers, from Huckleberry Finn to Robert Frank. Like Huck, Luker spends his time at home dreaming up his next departure with a frequency with which most people plan what’s for lunch, and recruiting whoever is available to be his travel companion and artistic subject. “I don't stay in one place too often, so I am traveling as much as I can afford too,” he explains, “There is no separation between my life and work, pretty much.”

Which means we’ll have plenty more opportunities to enjoy our twenties vicariously through Luker. He says it best, in fact: “There is something very important about documenting young life in America these days. People needed to be reminded about the possibilities and the endlessness of it all, places you never thought actually existed.”

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Originally published in December 2011-January 2012

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