back to journal

Taking a walk with photographer David Lurvey

David Lurvey is a photographer living in New York City with a penchant for walking places and frequenting dance music functions. His work captures the world he views around him; isolating spaces and objects that can often be overlooked.

When did you start taking photographs and what inspired you to start?
I grew up taking photographs with a Canon SLR my parents had, mostly on trips we would take as a family. It wasn’t until college that I started shooting still photos more seriously and only then after being inspired by some early coursework and friends. I went to school for filmmaking but was quickly more drawn to still photography for its simplicity and immense potential.

What is your background in photography?
I got a degree both in Film and Photography from Ithaca College in central New York. It was a a fine arts degree but done through the communications school.

What do you primarily shoot with?
I shoot a Nikon D800. I shot mostly medium format film throughout college and for a bit after finishing but stopped when access to high end scanners became more difficult. Even when I shot film, I was printing digitally so once I got a proper digital camera there was no reason to look back. I mostly don’t miss it, except for how forgiving film is.

Where did you grow up and how did your surroundings influence you as a person and in your work?
I grew up in Minneapolis, MN. I went to Patrick Henry High School. I grew up in Northeast Minneapolis which was pretty quiet and lent itself to walking and biking places. I found when I left Minneapolis for school I was always down to walk places when others would want to drive or not go at all. Walking is pretty important to my photography. Minneapolis also has an interesting balance of being a large midwestern city that also is really connected to nature. There are a lot of lakes within the city limits and if you drive not too far out you hit more rural areas fairly quickly. I think the city/suburban/rural balance of the Twin Cities is something that can be seen through the work I make.

Does your work revolve around any specific themes?
I don’t tend to take the photographs on preconceived notions of a theme. I actually try to resist making broader leaps to what the work might be about while I’m photographing. If I have the urge to photograph something, I might, and later I can try to make sense of it. I’m mostly interested in making photographs of the world around me as I see it and come across it. So certainly patterns of place tie things together and I strive to sequence and select photos in a way that feels cohesive. If I go out with a specific theme in mind, the work often feels stilted. If you enter the world with a thesis, you’ll be disappointed.

This all isn’t to say there aren’t things I find myself drawn to shoot again and again. I like tarps and coverings. I like things being built and things falling apart. I like objects I don’t quite understand. I like the mess and the order within the mess.

What is the relationship between you and the objects you photograph?
Hmm I guess the most I want to say on that is for that moment we both existed.

A lot of your photographs are taken of inanimate objects and spaces you walk past. What attracts you to these images?
I like to think I work within a tradition of photography that is interested in seeing things as they are without much intervention other than the frame I choose. Inanimate objects in space take on a sculptural quality when photographed and I think my attraction to those has to do with an interest in looking and isolating and wanting to linger on that experience. Sometimes a photo is motivated by a question like, ‘what is that?’ or ‘what brought that here?’ but mostly I’m just trying to make interesting pictures and these are the things I find.

from the series Kolkata Blue

What is the story behind your project “Line not Rope”?
Line Not Rope came out of an interest in getting on a sailboat. When I was living in Ithaca, in the Finger Lakes region, there were all these marinas with boats. I spent months asking friends and acquaintances if they knew anyone with a boat that I could get on. I followed leads for weeks and it kept leading to nothing. Despite that I kept going to these docks and I found these boat coverings that kind of perfectly confronted me with that same inaccessibility.

The name comes from this time I asked a friend who sails if she had any rope I could borrow so I could learn to tie nautical knots and she replied, “you mean line?”

There’s something sort of erotic at play in those images too.

from the series Kolkata Blue

What and who are you inspired by?
If I’m feeling down on photography or music or whatever, it’s often an encounter with a particularly striking piece or series or song or party that will energize me again. Hard to say what that looks like exactly because it usually comes as a surprise or from an angle I’m not expecting. It’s the stuff that makes me realize that I need to focus on the work and not the stuff around the work, like how it’s marketed or received or relevant, that inspires me to keep going.

The people who inspire me are those that keep doing their thing for the love of it. People that are creating for their friends. People that are protecting their passions from all sorts of shit that will try to get in the way.

What was it like interning for Alec Soth? I hear you’re really good at ping pong.
I interned for Alec as an undergrad one summer while I was home in Minneapolis. He runs a very sweet operation and it was great to spend time and get to help out with such a kind and voracious working artist and team. We played ping pong everyday. I’m alright, I had a table growing up. I’m a bit rusty these days but I will never turn down a game. There’s a bar near my apartment that has a ping pong night, I think I need to get back in the habit.

from the series Line Not Rope

What’s in your forecast for 2017?
I’m going to be taking pictures of people more. I’m interested in finding more people to share work with on a regular basis. I’m open to collaborations. I’m just going to keep shooting and putting pictures together. I’m feeling patient and excited by the work and this life and the people around me.

What are you doing outside of art/work?
You can find me at ur local dance music function or looking for my next meal. I don’t make music myself but it is an important part of my life, I’ve been djing a bit and like to find dance parties. By day I studio manage a small architecture firm in Manhattan.

What are you currently listening to?
Recently, a lot of pretty aggressive techno. I saw Perc and Adam X play a few weeks ago and it was so incredible. I’ve been digging through the catalogues of these labels Jealous God and Jericho One and liking a lot of what they are putting out.

One book and one film recommendation.
A book I’ve just started, but was so excited to see get reprinted and would recommend already to photographers, artists, writers, etc. is Photography Against the Grain by Allan Sekula. His practice was really unique and his use of images and writing together is inspiring. I like how upfront he is with his process. He is generous and sharp.

I’ve been recommending this movie Like Someone In Love to several friends recently. It’s the last feature film by this director Abbas Kiarostami who consistently made some of the most tender and curious movies. Really I’d recommend any of his movies, but this one came to mind recently. He passed away last year.

Favorite Instagram account of the moment?
@_tejucole, @hello.pinto, @thatjelliclecat, @sandwihces, @tgeanak

Follow along:
davidlurvey.com
instagram.com/david.lurvey
twitter.com/ccmmttee

read next

Graphic designer Garrett DeRossett on creating work through never-ending self-investigation