We've been all over Toronto-based Vancouverite Seth Fluker's photos for a while now. Seth has a way with turning everyday, mundane experiences into amazing abstract visions, like a series he did of a sink when he washed dishes at Whole Foods. An autodidact photographer, he's recently branched out to shooting more portraits and experimenting with digital photography (he's a diehard analog film guy), the results of which have been collected in his latest book, Earth People. We recently caught up with him to chat about it.
VICE: Hey, Seth! Tell me about naming your book Earth People. Any relation to that Kool Keith song?
Seth Fluker: I kind of just went through all my scans and negatives and was pulling stuff that I liked and jotting down notes. Random stuff like "earth," "people," "abstract," anything, to see if I could bring together a cohesive body of work. That song ended up coming on a couple days later, and I went back to my notes, and I was like "Oh, fuck: Earth People." It was just really coincidental that that happened. It was kind of like a sign that I should use those two words. The title was actually the first thing that really stuck, and then it kind of evolved on its own from there.
You typically do more abstract and landscape type work; how has the transition to portraiture been for you?
I really enjoy photographing people, and it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. It just took time for me to have the confidence to get there. I’m a pretty shy person naturally, but it’s just been in the last three years that I’ve been super stoked to be given these opportunities. To show up and photograph [Canadian writer] Sheila Heti where she wrote How Should a Person Be and spend time working on that is really special. Or going to [Canadian artist] Shary Boyle’s studio, where she was doing all her work for the Venice Biennale.
I want to make sure I’m representing who I’m photographing. I enjoy that pressure of trying to find those moments, in the 30 minutes that I may have with these people.
There’s a sort of difference with the aesthetic quality of the photos: Some of it looks more filmic; other stuff looks grainy and digital. I know you’re more of a film dude…
This is the first time I’ve actually incorporated digital work into my work. I wanted to include it because that’s the kind of personal project I’ve been working on that I didn’t think was ready to show people. There’s a couple screen graphs throughout the book. For me, they just help balance the film photos out, because everything else is just shot on film.
I love shooting film because it slows everything down. You only have X amount of shots. It’s not like I just have a memory card and I can shoot like 1,000 photos; you really have to concentrate and look for that moment. What I’ve always done with my photography is tried to show people that this is exactly how I saw it, how I came across this object or person, even with the abstract work I’ve done.