Looking Toward The Classics With Luke Atwood Abiol

We’re constantly and consistently inspired by the people of San Francisco. In a city with skyrocketing living costs, hoards of youthful creatives continue to fill the cafés, streets, bars, and galleries. And while the tech boom is the story of the hour, we are well aware that there is a new age of design and visual manifestation which shares in the significance of what is taking place here in the Bay Area. It is often nothing short of jaw-dropping.

We recently met up with San Francisco native Luke Abiol to stroll through the city and get his take on the creativity thriving at every turn. A genuine and sincere photographer, Luke has a presence that is both commanding and relaxing—confident in his practice but always pushing to learn more in an effort to expand his narrative. He has an ease of conversation that is familiar but that always seems to, after reflection, explore ideas on an entirely different plane—certainly grounded in the present yet completely aware of the big picture. And he can take a damn great photo too.

photo of our ojai in the wild

Tell me a little about yourself. When people ask you what you do, how do you answer?

About me: I care a lot. I also have like 170 unread text messages on my phone. What do I do: I make photographs, art-direct things, direct video. I also help bring friends and peers together to help realize unrealized projects through my company, TheseCreatives. It’s equal parts artists’ rep and anti-agency.

How did you get your start in photography?

I got my start in photography while in high school. I was already studying painting at what’s now the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts, and some friends started a photo club. I got my first camera there. A Pentax K1000.

Can you describe your style and what you hope to capture when you’re shooting?

For the moment I’m in a pretty explorative phase in my practice. I’m making photographs that are pushing the limits of my visual language. The new work is exciting because it’s new. I like it for that reason. Although I’m not quite sure what it’s about yet which means I don’t know if it’s any good yet. I suppose my style is found within the work that I make my own, regardless of subject matter. It really comes down to vocabulary for me.

from the scene in the city with luke wearing the ojai

You’ve spent a lot of time shooting film, is that your preferred medium or are you a digital guy too?

I would say that it’s neither. I’m currently working to bring my large format film photographs together with newer digital work which is mostly commercial, as well as my most recent small- and medium-format film photographs. Shooting film is a discipline and will definitely help you to understand what type of photographer you are and how to make decisions. Film is also lush and beautiful and feels tangible - so there’s that aspect of the material as well. But hey, digital cameras work really well, and the tech aspect is impressive. I love it all.

Aside from just shooting, you’re also a talented creative director. Does your foundation of making images translate to other mediums well, or is there a unique skill set you’ve picked up along the way?

You know, my interest in photography goes back to a kind of remedial training as a painter when I was really young. I mean, I was drawing and painting forever, and on everything, so you can say I’ve always had an obsession with this sort of projection of ‘self’ and ‘visualization’. It’s a very singular act though for the most part, so my interest in creative direction and making videos somewhat stems from the need for collaboration. I really love working through projects where multiple voices and behaviors and characters are in the mix.

Why San Francisco? How long have you called this crazy place home?

I grew up in the Mission and Excelsior, so this city’s been home since September of 1980.

luke looking around wearing the ojai

Things are changing. From the way we consume images to the way we interact on the streets. How has this shift affected you, what you do, and in general, San Francisco?

Man, this question always makes me feel old.

A perfect day in the city: what does it look like?

Hangin’ out with all my kids in some good weather and probably eating a meal outside somewhere.

Who’s making interesting work right now and what inspires you?

There’s a lot of strong work being made right now, but I’ve been looking towards the classics which are informing my use of light and color and are informing how I build (or really manufacture) narrative. It goes Jacob Lawrence, Velasquez, El Greco, in that order. Also, music and the streets and the human condition and the babies and the ancestors. Always.

Do you have any show’s planned? Where can people find your work?

I’ve been working on a two-person show with my friend Adam for the past few months (a show and a book). If you want to look at actual prints of my work, give me a shout anytime, otherwise, @thisislukeabiol will do.

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