Imagining photographer Luke Boland perched atop gigantic and populated environments with his camera in hand is a nice image. Viewers can easily imagine this – not that he features in the photographs himself – but because of the vast expanse captured in his photographs and the numerous locations his work sees him journey to. From Nevada’s Hoover Dam to Hong Kong’s residential area of Lai King, Luke’s photographs show us the world at face value but also communicate how it logistically functions. Though his lens, the photographer manages to encompass manufacturing, shipping, energy, housing and how populations generally spend their time day-to-day.
For Luke, this work is a personal mission, and the only personal project he’s really concentrated on. Five years ago or so the photographer was reading about industrialisation and the topic stood out to him following one particular passage of writing. The piece, “basically explained that you could show how humanity has evolved by the different ways in which we have learned to control nature,” he recalls, fascinated by the concept he “set about trying to document it visually.” After delving deeper into the subject and many possible visual interpretations, Luke went off on a journey into “the structures that support our modern way of life.”
The process of creating such hugely communicative images is a long and thoughtful one. It’s a journey which means creating one image is “very slow” because Luke begins by visiting a chosen location without his camera. Enabling himself to “think about how I’d like to represent the scene and what I want to say,” appears to be the first thing to tick of his photographic to-do list. From there, he’ll “go back a couple of times, ideally to actually shoot it”. Visiting a number of times is key to his practice, especially when you consider how a “location can change so much over the course of a day,” Luke points out, “it’s nice to see it at different times and in different light.” While this isn’t always the case and his process can change depending on the location, when Luke does have the luxury of taking time, it’s “the way I like to work when I can”.
While planning is clearly an integral part of Luke’s photography trips, sometimes – as with all brilliant pictures – a composition just comes together by accident. This was the case while in Lai King, a place he’d visited repeatedly due to it being “an incredibly vast port” with the aim to “capture the sense of the incredible scale of it all”. Yet during his final walk around he noticed a door ajar leading “up to a service walkway above the port that was left open during the day,” he explains. “I managed to clamber up there with my large format camera and set up for a day overlooking the containers being brought in and unloaded.” With just ten sheets of film in hand, the photographer took his time, keeping in mind that haste could mean he’d run out too quickly. When he had only two final films remaining, a lorry pulled up and the driver jumped out to check something underneath. “I felt so lucky,” says Luke, “and waited with my shutter release in hand for him to get into a good spot on my side of the truck and clicked as he peered underneath.” The result was the expansion Luke was looking to photograph as with a person in the scene it “gave a sense of how massive the port was as he’s dwarfed by the enormous pieces of industry around him.”
So while Luke’s process is a lengthy one of travelling, wandering and planning, the pleasure he gains from photography and “being able to create order out of what is front of me,” can be serendipitous too.
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