Luke Swenson

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Luke Swenson

Photographer / Digital Retoucher

Brooklyn, NY

www.luke-swenson.com
instagram @luke_swenson

 

WHAT DO YOU DO?

I’m a photographer and digital retoucher based in Brooklyn, New York.

 

WHAT STEPS DID YOU TAKE TO GET TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW?

I grew up just outside Portland, Oregon and started taking pictures in high school. At 18, I moved to Brooklyn to study photography. School allowed me to build on my technical foundation as a photographer and develop an interest in post-production. I landed an internship at Feather Creative, a digital retouching house in Manhattan that focuses on fashion and editorial photography. There I established myself as a dedicated and highly skilled digital retoucher by learning hands on from some of the most experienced professionals in New York. My awesome bosses at Feather Creative just recently launched the Retouchers Accord which is something I'm really proud of. They aim to celebrate real beauty with a code of ethics. 

After four years at Feather Creative I wanted to expand beyond fashion. I had been working full time in a blacked out dark room and had started to feel like one of those mole people. So last year, I transitioned to working with industry-leading architecture and interior design photographer Garrett Rowland. Since January of last year I’ve been handling his post-production and assisting on shoots. Most of my professional experience up to that point had been in post-production, so working closely with an independent photographer has given me a lot of valuable insight. 

 

FOR OTHER PEOPLE IN YOUR FIELD, WHAT DO THEY USUALLY LACK?

When I’m looking at other photographers work, I try to find the good in it. If you’re just out here looking down on other peoples work you’re missing out on opportunities for growth. It’s not a good mentality. When I see people out there doing cool shit with photography, it pushes me to work harder. That’s one of the beautiful things about the industry is the strong sense of community. We’re all working and building off one another. I learned how to take pictures from people older and wiser than I was and I’ve been blessed to have some great mentors over the years. 
 

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?

I recently started a new project that focuses on my family. My parents are both in medicine so death was never a taboo subject around the dinner table for us. My grandfather passed away before I was born and although I never met him, my dad took a lot of photographs of his father’s battle with cancer. Those images and the stories surrounding them became my basis for ‘knowing’ my grandpa Bud. That concept is what inspired this new body of work. The images I’ve taken thus far center around my parents and grandparents. The images deal with confronting mortality, coming to terms with life and reflecting on the choices we make along the way. 
 

WHAT'S YOUR STYLE/PERSPECTIVE/TASTE? DO YOU HAVE A PROJECT THAT REPRESENTS THIS? 

A lot of my work over the past two years has a wabi-sabi aesthetic to it. Sometimes it’s about beauty and form. Other times I’m really drawn to chaos and grit. These ideas are at the heart of my artistic style. It’s accidental design. The form of a mangled car door, a city street right out of a Dr. Seuss book or the inside of a subway train. Moments where the imperfect catches me off guard and finds an unexpected gracefulness. Small World is an ongoing collection of photographs exploring these ideas.
 

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WE ARE ALL SLASHIES WITH MULTIPLE SKILLS, WHICH ONE DO YOU WISH YOU COULD DO MORE OFTEN?

I want to focus on developing my passion for photography into a career.
 

WHAT IS FRUSTRATING YOU RIGHT NOW?

I spend 50+ hours each week in my studio working in front of a computer. Though I’ve been blessed to have my work as a digital retoucher support me financially - it isolates me socially. That’s why I was so excited by the concept of ilovecreatives. It seems like an fantastic way to connect with a group of like-minded creatives and potential clients. I’ve been blessed to work on some truly incredible projects and my hope is that the ilovecreatives community will connect me with more of these opportunities.
 

IF YOU COULD HIRE SOMEONE FOR $20/HR, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE THEM DO TO MAKE YOUR DAY EASIER?

I’d love to have someone help me out with expanding my social media network organically, applying to exhibitions, seeking new clients, etc. I have a lot to offer, but it’s always been daunting to get myself out there and promote myself professionally. I’m never really sure where to start.
 

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LET'S BRING OUT THE TIME MACHINE. WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU COULD HAVE TOLD YOURSELF, WHEN, AND WHY?

If I had a time machine I’d go into the future and tell myself now - to relax and not worry so much. Ha. I bite my fingers and generally spend too much time second guessing myself. I don’t really think of myself as being self conscious but I totally have anxiety and a lot of it is associated with my desire to do meaningful, quality work. So hey present self - relax, you’re doing just fine, you’re doing good work. Keep that shit up.  
 

IF YOU COULD TALK TO AN EXPERT TO GAIN MORE INSIGHT ON SOMETHING, WHAT WOULD IT BE ABOUT?

I really love Michael Schmelling’s work from the series Atlanta. It’s inspiring to see how he developed his style and personal interests into a really successful commercial photography career spanning advertising, music, art and fashion. I’d love to get more insight into that whole process and his approach to working in the industry.
 

WHAT KIND OF OPPORTUNITIES/PROJECTS ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?

I'd love to work on something editorially based - profiling artists/creatives/musicians/makers/etc in their studios and homes. In the cities where they live. Documenting and capturing their personalities and the work that they do. 

In the last few years digital retouching has come under fire especially in the fashion industry - so I'm always looking for ways to work with people who are trying to change the industry standard. I'm passionate about working with clients who want to present a realistic standard of beauty that is raw, vibrant and accessible to everyone. 

 

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DESCRIBE YOUR IDEAL JOB/CLIENT/COLLABORATION.

Hit me up to work together and let’s find out.
 

WHAT IS YOUR HOURLY RATE, RETAINER, OR SALARY RANGE? 

My rates are flexible depending on the project and budget. 
 

HOW SHOULD SOMEONE APPROACH YOU ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER?

Shoot me an email with an overview of the project and your timeline.
 

HOW DO YOU STAY CREATIVE?

Good bourbon and fried chicken.

 


This member profile was originally published in February 2018.