Germantown's SLA grad Luke Risher finds national success in music video production

by Olivia Poolos 
Posted 5/23/24

Despite his success with national directors, Twenty-four-year-old Luke Risher continues to shoot for smaller artists around Philadelphia.

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Germantown's SLA grad Luke Risher finds national success in music video production


Twenty-four-year-old Luke Risher didn't start listening to contemporary music until middle school. That fact wouldn't be so shocking if it wasn't for his current job: a music video director, videographer, and creative who's worked with dozens of local Philadelphia artists as well as nationally recognized rappers, including NBA Youngboy and Meek Mill.

"I never had a phone or iPad growing up, and my parents would just play CDs," Risher said. "When I was in middle school, I finally was like, 'I gotta start listening to music, it's what everyone's talking about.'"

Risher, who goes by the director name Visuals By Luke, grew up in Germantown and received his first exposure to rap music in the halls of Wissahickon Charter School. He listened to Drake, Eminem, and Meek Mill, and spent hours watching music videos.

"I already really resonated with the music, and then seeing it brought to life visually was super interesting," Risher said. "You can convey a lot of emotion, a lot of messages, in a very consolidated form."

In high school, Risher picked up a camera of his own in a digital video course at Science Leadership Academy. He was immediately hooked, shooting amateur videos for friends and messing around with special effects.

"I always wanted to take [the camera] home, check it out for the weekend," he said.

Philadelphia has a highly connected music and art scene that Risher described as "a big snowball." Even in high school, before he shipped off to college at Howard University in DC, he knew local artists who needed a music video videographer. He began shooting and editing in his free time, learning by experience.

Risher spent a couple of years in DC but continued to shoot for artists in Philadelphia, buying cheap bus tickets home for the weekend. By the time COVID hit in 2020, he decided it was time to stay home for good. And while the rest of the world shut down, his career began to heat up.

"It's kind of bad, but people were still shooting music videos – it was outside, and we masked up," Risher said. "And that was the first time that I was able to do the career full-time."

In 2021, Risher was up late one night when he received a notification that Rich Porter, music video director for Kentrell DeSean Gaulden, also known as the rapper NBA YoungBoy, had followed him on Instagram.

"This was a couple years ago, [YoungBoy] would have been 100 times the biggest artist I had ever worked with – no, 500 times," Risher said.

Risher immediately messaged Porter, thanking him for the follow and offering his services if needed. The next morning, Risher woke up to a message from Porter with a link to an NBA YoungBoy video, and a message: 'Can you get this done today?' Risher's edits of the video, "Around," are in his typical style at the time: quick frame changes to the beat of the music, colorful bursts of light around YoungBoy, and meticulous attention to every detail, like the shine on an expensive watch. The video has 32 million views.

Since then, Risher's career has continued to skyrocket. He edited a few more music videos for YoungBoy, and even connected with Meek Mill's director, Benjamin Carter, to work on a ten-year anniversary video of the album "Dreams and Nightmares," coincidentally one of the first albums Risher connected with in middle school.

Risher's current video style is a little less flashy than his early years, but still technologically complex, with ample use of graphics and special effects. He tends to follow specific storylines, spinning a narrative around the lyrics and vision of a song.

Despite his success with national directors, Risher continues to shoot for smaller artists around Philadelphia. He claims that the music in his hometown just sounds different from other cities around the country.

"We've always had a history of having real spitters – like lyrical bar-for-bar [can] just out-rap anyone," Risher said. "And the amount of love for the craft of hip hop and rapping that Philly has is impressive."

Alongside his personal video career, Risher is dedicated to giving back to the community that raised him. Three years ago, along with a few of his friends, Risher created a studio space, Makeshift Philly, in the same building as his old middle school in Germantown. Artists and directors can trek over to 4700 Wissahickon Avenue and, for a reasonable price, use 10 different sets or ask for a custom-made one, as well as lights and equipment storage.

"We're trying to build this shared brand and identity of Makeshift as being a creative hub," Risher said.

Risher still lives in Germantown and said he cannot see himself moving out of the city anytime soon.

"There's definitely some places that may have better opportunities in the industry – people will talk a lot about Atlanta for music or LA for video," he said. "But I love Philly."