“Coffee to start the day off, always.”
Luke Anderson always wakes up earlier than required. A combination of caffeine, music and podcasts prepares him for each day on Planet Earth.
Up until very recently, Luke called The Big Apple home – moving there in 2017 on behalf of Australian denim brand, Ksubi. When Luke isn’t deep in fashion, he takes film photographs, and beautiful ones at that.
For Luke, taking pictures is a way to break free of the monotony and engage more closely with the world around him. “It’s a great escape from day-to-day life. It’s a great way to reclaim some time for yourself. It forces you to take in your surroundings and be more aware.”
In New York City, there’s always something happening. When living there, Luke would simply stroll the streets recording the goings-on around him. “It’s funny in New York how much the same route to work can change so much with different people or weather. I used to walk 30 minutes each way, to and from Ksubi. That trip took me through the East Side, Chinatown, Little Italy and Soho.”
In a metropolis of some 19 million people, you can imagine the variation these four boroughs alone would throw up everyday. “I’d often catch the same characters but in completely different scenes and variations. Otherwise, it’s something completely different altogether.”
Speaking on a particularly windy evening as the sunset in East Village, Luke shares:
‘Some people were filming a scene from a movie with a bunch of old cars. I saw this one car at the end of a long block with nothing around. When I looked closer, the gentleman who was waiting to be radioed in as an extra had a hat on, and it looked stunning with the lights from a building behind it.”
To capture these moments, Luke uses both 35mm and 120mm optical instruments. Jumping from his trusted Contax T3 to larger medium format machines (a Rolleiflex 2.8f, Pentax 67ii and Mamiya RZ6), Luke bottles moods of this bustling city gorgeously.
When asked to choose a favourite camera, it all gets a bit too much. “That’s such a tough one. I have a big range of cameras which during the pandemic only grew. My plan was to sell the ones I wasn’t using or didn’t like as much. The only problem is, I ended up keeping most of them.”
His choice of film is a little easier to land. “If I had to pick, I’d say Portra 400 or 800. I know roughly what I’ll get out of it colourwise and it’s available most places.” Impressively, Luke developed 98% of his film at home. He’d duck to a colour house only when his crib started to resemble a hanging garden of film rolls.
Browsing Luke’s IG (@la.kollektiv), you’ll notice vintage cars feature heavily. From vehicles on quiet blocks bathed in afternoon glow to eye-catching whips covered in snow, Luke gives these beasts an air of intrigue.
“I have always loved cars since I was a kid. Growing up in Australia, I’d see American cars in movies all the time. I guess it romanticised older US cars for me. When I shot cars in the States, I wanted it to look like the picture was taken way back when.”
Another recurring theme in Luke’s portfolio is the bearded portrait of musician Nick Murphy, AKA Chet Faker. Happy to share how these two fellow Aussies came to spend time together, Luke tells:
“We met out the front of the Ksubi store in New York over a cigarette (when Nick smoked). Both being Australian, we got along pretty fast. We made friends over photography and he asked me to grab some photos of him in his old place before he was due to move out. During quarantine, when the city emptied out, we ended up hanging quite a bit.”
Luke’s shots of the award-winning artist are striking and candid, with Nick totally at ease.
Scattered amongst portraits of Nick, Luke’s homies and eccentric characters from the streets are a number of self-portraits. Shot mainly within the four walls of his high rise apartment, the photos tell a story of an inked-up ex-pat, reflecting on the space he calls home.
Speaking of tattoos, I’m curious to know more as Luke is lathered in them.
“Surprisingly I’ve actually never had any ink done in New York. There are definitely a few places on my wishlist across the city though. There’s Ozzyink in LA, I’ve had quite a few from him and Shonlindauer is another LA-based artist who did my hands.”
The discussion soon steers towards other artistic pursuits – in this case, music. Before returning to Sydney, Luke would often share vision of burning incense and spinning vinyl in his Manhattan apartment.
“Music puts me in the zone and helps focus my mind. It blocks out all the distractions. One album I always come back to is Crooked Colours Vera, such a good listen.”
Of late, Luke’s life has been turbulent as he settles back into life in Sydney – world’s away from the hum of New York. “I’ve just been getting the pad setup…trying to make a bit of a nest and the best of a crappy situation.” Even though it’s a rude shock being back Down Under (thanks to unexpected VISA issues) Luke is motivated to start hitting the shutter on the streets of the Harbour City.
“Now the New York era is done, I’ll start taking pics here and catalogue this new chapter somehow.”
Until then, take a tour of foreign pavements with stellar shooter Luke Anderson as your guide.