One phrase comes to mind when scanning the work of photographer Robert Lüthje: picture imperfect. That’s not to say his work is flawed, but it’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea. In fact, at first glance, most of the images he crafts behind his lens are rather cold and distant. There’s a startling lack of color, and he’s not exactly photographing the most interesting or original subjects.
And yet, there’s an undeniable sleekness to his photos. He has the ability to transform the ordinary into something stunning, using very little. Grays, blacks and silvers dominate his photos, and yet, despite the dull color palette, the photos are visually striking. There’s a style and method behind the madness that lends itself to his work. Lüthje has the ability to take something as simple as a staircase or elevator and transform it into something so slick, it looks like a future you’d want to live in.
The Berlin born photographer and college student is building a name for himself on Instagram under the username @lastexplorer, showcasing his work and amassing a growing follower base. Lüthje does commercial photography part-time and has been enraptured with the art since his parents bought him a DSLR camera back in 2008.
“I first started out shooting touristy pictures when I went on vacation with my family, but after a few journeys and heaps of cheesy tourist photos, I thought that it’d be a good idea not only to explore foreign cities with my camera but also my own city, Berlin, and try to find new perspectives on the town I had known for so long,” Lüthje said.
Ever since, Lüthje has been honing his craft, studying photography books and video footage, and of course, taking countless pictures. It’s become an addiction almost, though one that has yielded some rather beautiful side effects.
“The main reason I go out and shoot all the time and the thing I like the most about photography is the fact that you get to know your surroundings in a whole new way and start to look at things differently.”
And it’s true, Lüthje’s photos prove that he does see and capture things differently. A staircase becomes a spiraling, abstract labyrinth through his lens. A tunnel becomes a portal to a new world. It’s a skill some of the best photographers have – taking something and making people see it in a different light.
Lüthje stresses that getting out of one’s comfort zone is the most important thing any photographer can do. “Your number one priority should always be to the shot, no matter what. You should never not take a picture because it takes you a long time to access a good spot, you risk getting caught lurking around abandoned buildings or because you have to approach strangers.”
Perfection is something Lüthje doesn’t strive for when he’s out shooting. In fact, he welcomes wrenches thrown in his gears. It’s this gritty, naturalistic approach and aesthetic his photos elicit that really define his style. “I don’t like having perfect weather, perfect lighting conditions and ten assistants around me all the time. That just doesn’t represent what photography is.”
Using Instagram and Tumblr has enabled Lüthje’s perfectly imperfect photographs to catch fire on the Internet, giving him a target base to test out new techniques and shots, and getting his work seen by a larger audience. He doesn’t let criticism make him feel insecure about his craft, but he also doesn’t let the compliments his photos receive make him complacent. He eschews the notion of having an ultimate goal, preferring to keep setting new goals for himself because having something to achieve means his work will never get lazy or sloppy.
“The thing that moves me the most is when I see people enjoying my work. There’s nothing better than seeing your hard work pay off. I aspire to inspire. It’s a good feeling to know that your photos move people to go out and try to find new perspectives in their everyday life and just have a good time.”
Lüthje’s shoots with Canon 6D and L-lenses. “My all-time favorite lens is definitely the 35mm f/1.4. It’s just the perfect focal length for my picture style and the low minimum aperture enables me to produce high-quality work even when lacking decent light sources.”
All photos courtesy of Robert Lüthje