Much can be said about the destinations of the world, more so the experiences that offer themselves along the ride. Luke Gram is no stranger to these tales and we were lucky enough to catch him during his down time. In this interview, he talks about his story, the views he came across with, and some extras from his nomadic life. Spoiler alert: his words alone are amazing so prepare yourself for the photographs.
Hello, Luke! Welcome to the Lomography Magazine! We’re so glad to have you. Please, introduce yourself.
Thanks so much for having me, it’s a pleasure!
Covering the usual bases of introduction, I’m 25, born near Toronto, Canada, and currently leading a somewhat nomadic lifestyle.
The past 7 years of my life have had me living temporarily all over the country, from going to university, then working in the oil sands, and now traveling to 50+ countries in the past 2 years. It’s this constant sense of motion that keeps me motivated. I’ve recently been focused on directing it towards my main passion of travel and portrait photography, which is the never ending story I’m trying to tell with my photos.
How did you start your journey with photography?
It started simply with my mom. As a kid, she bought me a disposable film camera as a present during our trip to northern British Columbia to visit my grandfather on his ranch. I spent days walking around the woods and rivers taking photos.
From there, it continued throughout my life in a slowly growing progression. As I grew up and made my own money working I was able to buy my first film cameras, then eventually my dream digital. Moving across Canada to British Columbia reinvigorated my passion and I began taking my cameras with me everywhere – every camping trip, every day in the mountains, every road trip anywhere. That led me to into my first launch of selling prints and my eventual freelance working, and now my personal photographic essays from countries I visit.
How would you define photography?
I was just down in Honduras with some old friends of mine and one night we got talking about this exact thing. To recap a very passionate conversation between a lawyer, a poet and myself, we overall agreed on one key factor.
Photography is the attempt to recreate and convey an emotional and physical retelling of a memory. I find, as with the best authors and film makers, a good photographer pulls you into their material and you get sucked into the atmosphere of it.
Yes, photography is a massive and diverse field, but I find for myself, that is what I value and would ultimately define photography as.
What’s your favorite thing about it?
My favorite thing would have to be how incredible the photography community is. There are so many artists connecting with each other, sharing ideas and learning from one another. It’s this weird unique entity that has penetrated all of social media and seems to be the one art form that billions of people all love sharing and participating in, and I think that’s incredible.
In your opinion, what makes a good photograph?
As I mentioned before, if a photograph has an air of emotion to it, be it the pulling of adventure or the awe of scenery, or the drama of a moment, that’s what counts for me. A good photograph needs to have substance, some sort of emotional weight to it.
What’s your favorite subject?
Humans are my new favorite subject. Everything is so interesting and different all over the world, from what we wear to what we eat, to our mannerisms and attitudes, to our beliefs and our core values. I love finding people in cities that strike me as being rich in character and taking portraits with them. As well, walking around and picking little snippets of clarity in the chaos of busy city streets is a challenge and pushes me to learn new techniques.
What are the things that influence or inspire your style/images?
I’ve always been a fan of romanticism era paintings. I first discovered my interest in them during a visit to the Louvre in Paris and since then have been trying to incorporate tones and styles I’ve noticed amongst them. Other than romanticism, my broad inspiration is from painters in general. People such as Martín Rico, Mariano Fortuny, Ranón Martí Alsina, Carlos de Haes, Aurelia o de Beruete, or Ivan Aivazovsky
Which artist (photographer or not) had the most significant effect on your style/work as a photographer?
I read ahead one question and I’m just going to give the same answer for both. Steve McCurry, hands down. I’ve learned and admired so many painters and that was where the bulk of my ideas on tones and color pallets came from, but McCurry’s photographic vision is the one that shaped my own the most. He’s brilliant and has one of the sharpest eyes I’ve ever seen.
If you could have a dream collaboration with an artist/photographer/painter etc, who would it be?
Definitely again, my answer would be Steve McCurry. Just to sit back and watch him work would be enough for me.
How do you stay creative?
It’s tough. I stagnate creatively fairly easy once I’m home working and back in a routine. I try to keep my mind occupied with photographer’s books and articles, but it's tough. To break that, I try to keep a life in motion, so I’ll quite impulsively buy plane tickets to places and just leave again.
What’s the best thing about shooting out in the open? We feel the energy and excitement in your shots the more we look at them.
The most exciting thing is actually putting down the camera and enjoying the scenery of the moment. In Iceland when I was shooting the northern lights, while it was incredible to see the images on my screen and get excited to edit them later, the best part was when I said enough and put down my camera and stared in awe with my friends.
I think that’s a vital thing some photographers forget. Photos are important, but memories will always take the top.
Any trips planned out? If you may, please share them with our readers.
At the moment I have nothing planned and it feels great. I’ve been traveling for 3 years so it’s nice to sit back for a bit and reconnect with my friends. As well, I’m working on a horse farm and it’s been good for my head to take a moment away from the tempo of travel and chill out a bit.
What was your favorite trip? How about your dream destination?
Honestly, every trip I’ve had has been so incredible I can’t choose. I know that’s a terrible, cliché, awful answer, but it’s the truth. Each trip has been different in length, from 2 weeks to 6 months, have all been with different people, and have been in different regions of the world. They’ve all been different but lovely in their own unique way.
Dream destination #1 is Antarctica. It’s the last continent on my list and was also the first place on it. I’ve always been fascinated by how hostile and harsh of an environment and how unique it is on this planet, and how it might be the last of it’s kind for a very long while.
What was the most memorable thing that happened on your travels?
Camping on the Great Wall of China in a remote, crumbling section of the wall, far off from other people, with a bag of weed, a campfire, and music. That was hands down the most incredible experience.
We climbed the mountain side, at times literally scaling the side of the wall which had collapsed off the mountain. From the top, we got a lookout over the entire mountain valley and we set up tent. A campfire warmed our feet and our food, and we set speakers up and enjoyed the moonrise directly over us, all while sitting on one of the most iconic pieces of history out there. I feel very grateful to have had that moment in my life.
How do you prepare for your trips? What are your travel essentials?
I do basic route planning and destinations, but not overly thorough research. I find generally on the ground that it’s easier to figure out buses and trains in the country itself, and that way you can travel as locally and cheaply as possible.
Other than my entire bag of camera gear, my absolute essentials are my Bose headphones, my 20000 mAh powerbank, hand sanitizer, and a pair of comfy pants to travel in.
For you, what is the most challenging thing about being a photographer in this day and age?
The fact that most companies think they don’t have to pay artists because they can offer ‘exposure’ in return. Fuck those companies and the people who are corrupting photography. I’ve seen so many sell out photographers who only are photographers so they can get freebies and are ruining it for the rest of us because they give away all their material and work for free for ‘shoutouts’.
How would you describe your style in five words?
Atmospheric, intimate, surreal, adventurous, vibrant
If you could replace photography with one thing, what would it be?
I’ve always dreamt of being a painter, so that would undoubtedly be my choice.
Any photographer/artist that you follow religiously?
Absolutely! Instagram is so great for that.
What would you be if you weren’t a photographer?
Wouldn’t be myself, that’s for sure. Photography is such a vital outlet for creativity and ideas in my life.
If you could have one camera/and or film to shoot with, what would it be?
I’d love to have the Hasselblad H5D-200. I just love being able to crop portraits and street scenes in unique ways that the lens couldn’t achieve, and to have that amount of extra resolution, on top of already being the market's best, would be incredible.
How do you think people should deal with life and all its curve balls?
I’ve found that a mother’s love is the one thing I’ve witnessed on every continent. So when in doubt, call your mom, they’ll always be there for you. And if you don’t have a mom, you’d be surprised at how many people you know or even strangers who are willing to share some kindness with you.
You could only go to and photograph one - mountain, sea, city. What would it be?
I used to be so infatuated with mountains I thought I’d never want to shoot anything but them. That was until I went and began exploring some of the worlds largest cities, such as Beijing, Cairo, Mumbai. I began to realize that these places were like human jungles, with such diversity and craziness unique to each place. I fell in love with walking aimlessly through the streets of New Delhi and realized how many beautiful faces and characters I could meet in this urban jungle.
I fell in love with cities, and this question was a lot more difficult to answer than expected, but I think I’d have to choose cities. I’ll always have room in my heart for mountains and the woods though.