Meet the model turned photographer expressing himself on the other side of the lens

We chat to Luke Forte, who's modelling career has seen him face campaigns for the likes of Goodhood and walking shows at Paris Fashion week. But since making the decision to take his camera along with him on his adventures Forte has been creating beautifully raw images of his own along the way.

Photo: Luke Forte/Rejjie Snow in Paris

Thanks for agreeing to talk to us Luke. First things first, where are you from and how did you get in to photography?

First of all I would like to thank all you guys at Sludge Mag for considering to approach me to be featured in one of your articles, would never have expected it, so appreciate that! As for where I’m from, I live in a city in the midlands called Derby. Which most people seem to still not know about when I mention it, but a few people are starting to give it a name in a creative sense. Such as some other established photographers like my good mate Martyn Ewoma, who I believe you’ve featured before. As well as my mate from way back Ashley Stone, who is beginning to make a name for himself as he’s  putting in some real work to build up his portfolio. So go check those guys out if you don’t know already! As for myself I really couldn’t tell you, I remember photography being one of the reasons I commuted to Nottingham to go to college everyday, as they didn’t have it as an A level in derby, so I guess that’s how I got into it! Although when it comes to using film I remember one time I was on a shoot for Vans about a few years ago. I was speaking to one of the other models and the photographer on set about how to get into it, what camera I should start with and that’s where my love for film began I guess! 

Photo: Luke Forte/Swae Lee in Paris and models after Casablanca show

We know that you model as well. How did you get signed and how's your journey as a model been so far?

That’s an interesting story, my auntie who is a photographer her self was dying to do a shoot with me, as she used to regularly enter her work in for the National Portrait Gallery competition (I believe) and wanted to use a picture of me to enter that year. So after a lot of convincing, as I used to be way too shy as a 16 year old, she finally ended up taking some shots of me to enter into the competition. She sadly didn’t win, but as a thank you printed out the final image on a massive print and framed it to give me, which you can imagine I wasn’t too excited to receive at the time. Anyways after that she mentioned that I should try and sign up to a modelling agency, which again knowing me I wasn’t too keen to do. Although, one time I ended up getting scouted in London by a woman from IMG which made me wonder whether this could be something I could pursue. So my auntie sent off applications around a few agencies in London and Nevs took a liking to me, which lead to them signing me when I went to go visit them. As for the journey it’s been unforgettable and I couldn’t have been more blessed to have had the chances I’ve been exposed to. The amount of friends and people I’ve been able to cross paths with through this industry has made this journey more fun than I could have ever imagined, as I’ve met some beautiful people and made some amazing memories. Especially this summer when I went away to Paris, that was definitely one to remember. I had just intended to go on a little trip to Paris with my mate Leo from school after A levels. Which ended up in my friend Elias somehow getting me a casting which led to me walking for Casablanca’s collection during PFW, so I guess that was just meant to be. I met some genuine people on that trip too that I’ll be visiting the next time I’m in Paris for sure! As for the work its been real up and down, and right now it’s pretty quiet, so it could be better but it’s no my main focus right now so I’m not too annoyed about it. 

Photo: Luke Forte/Saint Catherine Parish, Jamaica

Do you see a long term career in modelling or photography?

In modelling, realistically I’d say no, of course I would love to and I still have an open mind to it, but for it being so sporadic and inconsistent I can’t say I see it being something I could pursue as a career and being able to financially support me. As right now I’m working at a restaurant in Derby to keep myself busy on this gap year and bring in some money. Although, with photography I would be more than happy for it to transcend into a career of mine from a mere hobby, especially if it allowed me to travel with it. It’s just that I don’t have much knowledge on that field of work just yet. However, I am considering it for university next year, although I feel like I could probably miss that step if I were to pursue a creative career. 

Photo: Luke Forte/Matthias Elkoulali at a casting

We can see from your photos music is huge passion of yours. If you could have a portrait session with any 3 people who would they be and why?

Yeah a massive passion, you won’t ever see me without my earphones when I’m out the house. Definitely Steve Lacy! He is by far one of the most talented artist out right now from the way he produces his sound through garage band (which still baffles me), to the way he presents himself through his choice of clothing and he just has some real good energy too. So I know the images would come out nice. He’s definitely a music artist and just a person I look up to in general, especially on a music front as me and some friends are starting to try and diversify ourselves into music very soon. I’m also gonna be seeing him perform in Paris this November so can hopefully get some nice shots there! Other than Steve, I would definitely say Rejjie Snow (ideally as a duo with Loyle Carner just to get another name in) as his whole vibe is just mad chill. I bumped into him on the streets when I was in Paris and took a quick picture of him, he was real down to earth and seemed pretty jokes from the amount of time we spoke too. So to be able to have a portrait session would be real cool, I feel we’d spark up some interesting conversations and obviously some hard pictures, he’s got a nice look. Third and final artist, would have to be Playboi Carti. I’ve been a massive fan of carti since like year 8/9, he was one of the first American artists I listened to (along side uzi) and his Die Lit album is honestly the only album I’ve ever really been able to listen to from start to finish and back and say I loved every single song (as well as Apollo XXI), so it would be wrong not to put him on the list. 

Photo: Luke Forte/Sheck Wes & SmokePurpp

Who are some of your favourite photographers?

I don’t really know too many famous photographers myself other than the pioneers that I was taught about in college such as Joel Meyerowitz, Fred Herzog and also Henri Cartier-Bresson. Who I all frequently used as inspiration for my work throughout my a level course. When it comes to my favourite current day photographers it tends to be people that I’ve either shot with or ones I’ve found through social media. For example, Rosie Matheson is an incredible portrait photographer that I had the chance to shoot with a few years back and attend her “Boys” exhibition that me and a few mates were featured in. So she’s definitely one of my favourites, as her images are just so clean. Another photographer that I’ve come in contact with, but only through instagram just of yet would be Hadar Pitchon. We ended up becoming friends via Instagram and ever since have always wanted to shoot but never had the chance as he lives in NY. He’s probably one of the most talented photographers I’m going to name on this list in my opinion. Then as for other photographers I take inspiration from or who I just think has some real cool work would be artists like Harry F Conway with his portraits of the people throughout the streets and tubes of London. His stuff is pretty raw and unmasked which I find real interesting, as he always ends up picturing some real cool subjects. For artists that I just admire, I would say @rayscorruptedmind on Instagram would be one to consider, who happens to be like Travis Scott’s personal photographer. His work is insane, he’s got a certain vibe to his images too that’s almost like his own little trademark. So if you see one of his images you’ll know it’s his, which is something I’d like to be able to achieve one day. Also since I mentioned Ray, more photographers that document rap culture that I love would probably be the likes of Gunner Stahl, Cian Moore and Sam Balaban all on Instagram. 

Photo: Luke Forte/Saint Catherine Parish

Even your photos that are portraits have something of a documentary feel to them. Is that something you do consciously?

I would say probably not, it seems like I may just do it subconsciously.  Even the fact you mentioned it has come as a bit of a surprise to me, I didn’t even realise myself. But I guess that’s just from all the time I spent doing street photography at college, I feel it has given me an eye for certain things to look out for. I just tend to shoot what I like the look of in the moment. 

Do you have any favourite photographers or visual artists?

Yeah for sure like I mentioned before, I would definitely put some of the older guys, such as Joel Meyerowitz up there who I really took some inspiration from when I came to shooting street stuff. As for other visual artists such as videographers, I don’t know too many just yet, but I do know of Yoni Lappin. He’s done some insane stuff for the likes of Adidas and plenty of Mura Masa videos such as Move Me featuring Octavian. Like I mentioned with Ray’s work earlier on, it’s the exact same with Yoni’s too, once you see it you know it’s his. He has a certain aesthetic that just attaches to his name. As for painters, I’m not actually too knowledgeable on. Although, I did take more of an interest into it earlier on this year at one point and took a liking to some painters such as Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin and other artists of similar work. These tented to not document the wealth that the upper class possessed at that time like many other artists did, but decided to take a look into the lives of the people living less fortunate lifestyles, for example in the likes of Chardins “the laundry woman”. 

Photo: Luke Forte

Have you got any upcoming projects we should be looking out for?
I do actually, me and my friend Leo who I went to Paris with this summer have put together all the pictures I have taken throughout that trip and tied them together with some written pieces to make another book. That should be coming out very soon, we’re just currently adding some final pieces then we’re all finished. So look out for that!  

We certainly will, thanks for taking the time to speak to us Luke!

To see more from Luke check out his photography page Fotosbyforte and his personal account for his modelling work


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