Interview #22: Luke Smithers


CUS: First of all, the most standard question in the book: how did you get into photography?

Luke Smithers: Ever since I was a young child I have loved taking photos. At age 4, I believe, I requested that I have a camera. I received an ancient Kodak instant camera with no film in return. I think I really got into photography at about 12. I got a small point and shoot and would shoot pictures of trash in plants, etc. It just progressed from there.


CUS: Tell us a little about where you live.

LS: That's an extremely complicated question to ask me at the moment. I am currently renting a house in this small Texas town called Wimberley so I can go to this school. I go home to San Antonio on the weekends. I like San Antonio. I think it's a great place to grow up, but I definitely do not want to live or go to college there. Wimberley is beautiful; The Blanco River runs through it; it's really...majestic [laughs]. 


CUS: Do you have a favorite subject you like to shoot? And why?

LS: I love shooting my friends. I definitely do not enjoy shooting adults, reason being they look awkward no matter what. I find that I am much more inspired when I shoot friends. I like it a lot more than taking photos of myself. Lately my friends have been pretty frustrated with having to have a photo shoot every time they come over...


CUS: Do you have a favorite photographer?

LS: My hero is Tim Walker. His photos are as close to perfect as a photograph can get. He is everything I want to be when I am grown. There are many others that I love, but none of them compare to Timothy.


CUS: What did you have for breakfast this morning?

LS: A muffin and Special K Strawberry cereal.


CUS: If you could go anywhere in the world to take photographs where would you go?

LS: EGYPT! It's so unique from any other place. I have always been fascinated with Egyptian type stuff, so that would be great. Not only would you be able to have an Egyptian goddess-esque photo shoot, but also an Aladdin type photo shoot. It would be cool to take photos of what a modern Egyptian tea session would be like in a pyramid.


CUS: What is the thing you like the least about photography? The most?

LS: The thing I like least about photography would be that it's not offered as much as like video camera classes at school, and just in general. I just don't see the logic in it at all (sorry YouTube shooters). I guess it's just a photographer thing.


CUS: What is your most treasured possession?

LS: I don't really have a treasured POSSESSION. Possessions can be replaced, people can't. There are few people in the world that you can truly love, and I think I have found them.


CUS: If every photograph should contain one key element, what would it be in your opinion?

LS: Meaning. In my opinion, a photo could be really crappy, but if it had a strong meaning and left an impression on you then I think that makes it an amazing photograph.


CUS: What’s playing on your iTunes right now?

LS: Normal Bleik- I Was King


CUS: If you could photograph any person (past or present) who would you choose? 

LS: Sacajawea, for sure. I think it would be quite challenging due to trouble communicating, but that would make it just that more rewarding. It would be fun just to watch her do her thing and just take pictures. It would be like photojournalism, yet conceptual at the same time.


CUS: Do you believe that with the rise of digital photography the phrase “everyone can be a photographer” is true?

LS: Yes and no. I think that you really have to have a "photographic eye" for things, yet at the same time I think a huge majority of it just becomes that way after seeing a lot of good photos.


CUS: Do you always have preconceived concepts of what you want to shoot?

LS: Almost 100% of the time. When I am on vacation there seems to be slightly less preconceived concepts. I found that really challenging when on vacation, wanting to shoot a concept, yet still being a tourist.


CUS: What kind of camera do you enjoy using the most?

LS: My Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera. You get such great detail, yet it's instant and it's a Polaroid. It's just like everything amazing put in one picture. It's so portable as well; I can even stick it in my pocket. 


CUS: Tell us a little about your family. 

LS: They are really supportive. They understand my love for photography and they encourage me to continue taking photos and are pretty helpful with getting photo props for me.


CUS: What’s your fondest childhood memory?

LS: All the family vacations, particularly skiing in Taos. The lights went out in our cabin during a mini blizzard and we lit candles and played a board game. I don't know why I am so fond of that memory. Another fond memory is when we went on a road trip through California.


CUS: You’re planning your dream concert; what 5 bands/musicians would perform?

LS: Bob Dylan, Devendra Banhart, Belle & Sebastian, Mike Snow, and Elton John.


CUS: Do you have any phobias?

LS: I really dislike bugs. I would be more comfortable with a snake than a bug. If a small bug were in my bed, I would go to the room next door.


CUS: What are some of your favorite films?

LS: Into The WildFerris Bueller's Day OffThe Girl Next Door, and Class.


CUS: What sort of themes do you try to explore through your photographs? Is there any one in particular in which you try to convey often?

LS: I guess you could say I try to convey a "dreamer" type theme in my photos. I like to think up things that aren't common. Certain words and people inspire me. Lately the word "Labyrinth" has been inspiring me.


CUS: What was the last movie you saw in the theatre?

LS: Happy Potter 6. I don't remember if it's Harry Pottter 6 or 7...


CUS: Who, or what, is your biggest influence? 

LS: I am really inspired by the photographers my age. A huge majority of them are ones you have interviewed. You never see adults with photos like theirs. They all turn into senior portraits, baby pictures, and family portraits. It makes complete sense.


CUS: What are five things you can’t live without?

LS: Photography
Everyone I like


CUS: If you could be anyone for a day who would you be?

LS: Probably a celebrity. I am so fascinated by what that would be like. I am sure they are just like us, but for some reason I can't get this certain celebrity stereotype out of my head. I would definitely want to go back to me after one week.


CUS: What’s have you always wanted to photograph but have thought was too difficult to execute?

LS: There's not one in specific because I come up with stuff too hard to execute often like every week. Half of my ideas are not realistic. For example: I would like a model to walk on a wire from the empire state building to the building next to it, obviously not realistic.


CUS: What are your other hobbies besides photography?

LS: I like all of art (besides cinema), but I am not very good at it, I'm working on it, though! Photography takes up most of my time.


CUS: What is something that no one knows about you?

LS: I like squash? Seriously, I have no idea. That question is extremely loaded


CUS: What’s the worst injury you’ve ever had?

LS: Various injuries from a golf cart wreck. I was with my friend and I flipped the golf cart I was driving. We both have scars, now (sorry Julie).


CUS: What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you on a photo shoot?

LS: I was hanging mannequins who were missing legs and arms from a tree and this guy came up and asked if they were going to come to life after I finished taking their photo.


CUS: What do you think the world will be like 50 years from now?

LS: Tired, stressed, complicated, and sad.


CUS: What is your favorite photograph that you’ve taken, and what’s the story behind it?

That one. The reason is because it was like at 1030 p.m. in Alaska and the water was extremely still. The reflection from the mountains was spectacular, but it was one of the most peaceful places I have seen in my life. It was actually pretty frantic, because it was really cold and I had to run back and forth till I made it on time.


CUS: Which technology do you think has most benefited our generation?

LS: Computers, but with them have brought more complication in the world. 
I would rather them never have come.


CUS: Where do you see yourself in 20 years? Do you think that photography will still be a big part of your life?

LS: Hopefully I will be a graduate from NYU or Parsons and will be the photographer for a major magazine.


CUS: What advice would you give to your fellow up-and-coming photographers?

LS: PRACTICE! Take as many photos a day as possible. The more pictures you take, the better you get. Look at a ton of photographer's photos, yours will get better.


CUS: What was the highlight of your summer?

Everything! This summer was the best summer of my life. I made some really good friends when I went to camp in New York, but I had a lot of fun at Disney World, too.


CUS: Our last interviewee, Chrissie White, would like to know: If you were to start a band what would you call it?

LS: Paper Kites. I love that question.

CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask our next Interviewee?

LS: If you could live in any decade what would it be, or would you like to live in the decade we live in now?



ed. note: images updated 09/13

Luke Smithers, from San Antonio, Texas


Images provided by Luke Smithers. All rights reserved.