John Klukas was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. After receiving his B.A. in Psychology from the University of Minnesota, his interest in pursuing photography brought him first to Bangkok, Thailand and presently to New York City. Klukas works primarily in fashion photography and his work has appeared in a range of art and editorial publications such as Nerve, Karin and Raoul Magazine, Design is Kinky Semi-Permanent Book, and Handsome Boy Magazine. For the last few years, Klukas has also created album covers for Ghostly International Records.
My Definition Of Success | Success is a fluid notion for me and I don’t quite know what to think of it. I feel like success is something you should only declare in retrospect. Looking back on a lifetime of hard work and all the struggles that come with trying to do something meaningful, you might be able to peer out across your life and say that it was a life worth living. That you were able to impact the world and those around you in a positive way.
I used to think success was about money and status, but I see those things as inhibitors to larger success now. It can be easy to let financial and social rewards undermine the reason you started doing something in the first place. We all need to eat and pay rent, and that is a struggle unto itself, but just don’t let your need for possessions or recognition replace your passion.
I Am Driven By | I want to understand the world. I want to understand myself. Everything else flows from these simple desires.
The Difference Between Good And Great | I think being motivated primarily from within, as opposed to by external factors, is the key to moving beyond average. If you find something you are really passionate about you will do whatever it takes to make it a success.
In Art, I think to make really awesome work you need to connect to something authentic. You have to move beyond what you would like others to think of you, or maybe even how you would like to see yourself, and tap into something greater than that; something more essential. The greatest Art isn’t made by the artist as much as it is made of the artist, so to speak.
A Key Talent | I think it’s a combination of passion and ambition that keeps me going. I am passionate about everything that I create and very ambitious about the goals that I set for myself. I never rest on what I have done previously and always try to take things much farther than I have taken them before. That doesn’t mean that everything that I try works out or that I reach every single goal, every single time. I like to say, “Each success is built on a mountain of failure;” you need learn from those attempts and not become discouraged. You need to have the fortitude to continue on when things seem grim, otherwise you will not be able to break through.
Dealing With Doubt | Self-doubt is your constant companion when you are choosing to do things differently than others. But you have to move beyond it and trust that you are on the right path. You have to see a larger picture and then do what needs to be done to realize that picture.
I think the time right before each shoot, especially if you are trying something new, is pretty intense. There is always a wave of self-doubt that hits before the shoot, that perhaps every single other time that everything has worked out could have been a fluke, and that this time it will all come crashing down.
Resources I Use To Stay Inspired | I constantly seek out new music, art and experiences. Creativity is born out of all the different experiences you have. So it is essential that you keep experiencing new things. Routine is the enemy of creativity, and if you go too long without new experiences your creativity will begin to run dry.
My Future Dreams And Ambitions | I feel like I have just begun. I want to continue to explore the world and grow in my understanding of how different people have chosen to live their lives. I find a great deal of beauty in the world and I am trying to figure out how to share this through my work and life. This will undoubtedly influence how I create new work and I am excited for that.
The Meaning Of Life | I think we create our own meaning. And I think the way that we search for that meaning is largely what defines us. I’m not convinced that we (humans) have some special significance in the grand scheme of things, though we may have very real significance in the lives of other people. But we do seem to have a natural predilection towards trying to make sense of the world and our place in it.
Within that search for our role as a species, we also try and find some larger meaning in each of our individual existences. I think it likely stems from our mortality and the unsettling thought that we could live and die without a greater significance to the time we spent living. So we dream up our place in the cosmos and that protects us against the nihilistic thought that our short lives might not hold a larger significance.
The Best Advice I’ve Received | There are a couple of good quotes that come to mind, although they weren’t delivered to me personally.
Anthony Hopkins said something along the lines of “I am what I am, and I do what I do. I expect nothing and accept everything.” That always helps me to remember to just do what I do and not to make excuses. That all the greatness and all the shittiness are all mixed up in the same person is something that I just accept and don’t need to apologize for.
The other quote is from Steve Jobs speaking at some commencement speech. He finishes by saying “Stay foolish. Stay Hungry.” And I try to remember that. The foolish part is especially important; because it speaks to being willing to make mistakes. I think a lot of People get afraid to screw up. And that’s a very natural thing. There’s lots of people who are ready to judge you and tell you that you are doing things the wrong way and that you should know better. But when you start thinking that you know what’s possible you really start limiting your possibilities. And your ability to discover new things becomes smaller and smaller.
So staying foolish, being willing to mess up, is really important; even if somebody else has done it that way and it hasn’t worked. Being willing to find out for yourself is a good thing. It may lead to the next great discovery. Because what you do with that knowledge you’ve gained through trying may be very different than what they did.
Advice On Building Wealth | My advice if you want to make money is to avoid Art. Focus on commercial photography work. See what is selling and do that, but with a slight twist. Don’t try and get ahead of the market, just try to stay on trend and focus on cultivating relationships with Art Buyers, Art Directors and agencies.
As far as the larger picture is concerned, I would be careful about focusing your life around wealth and imagining that it will provide fulfilment long-term. Benjamin Franklin has a great quote for this; “Money has never made man happy, nor will it, there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has the more one wants.”