Behind The Lens: Meet Photographer Luke Gottlieb

Meet the man responsible for photographing some of our favorite FP Me ladies! 

With camera in hand, Luke, AKA VictorOfValencia, treks around the west, capturing breathtaking moments in time. From the terrain of Colorado to gorgeous portraits, the images he produces truly make you feel something. I’d easily take every one of his landscape photos and switch them out as my desktop background. He caught our attention after he formed creative relationships with some of our Denver-based FP Me girls, and he’s continued to capture them in places we dream about.

In celebration of our recent Denver store expansion (it’s doubled in size and now stocks movement, intimates and shoes as of last Friday!), we’re hosting a special FP Me shoot at the famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. You can guess who the man behind the lens is…

Get to know more about Luke below, and stay tuned to see more of today’s shoot on the blog!

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Tell us about yourself. Where are you from/where are you now, what do you do, and how did you get to where you are? 

I was born and raised in the mountain town of Carbondale, Colorado. There are a few brief moments when I have lived out of state, but I have made Colorado my permanent home until further notice. Currently, I live in Denver, which is such a great spot for me. My college years were spent in Durango where I received a degree in Environmental Studies but, shortly after I moved to Denver looking for a fresh start, I decided to go “all in” in regards to my creative paths, which are photography and music. Both of which have a thriving industry here in Denver.

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When did your journey with photography begin?

I have vivid memories of my mom and her film camera when I was young. I guess I was raised to look at the little things in life, the details in the tree bark as well as the grandeur of the landscapes around me. I had always taken a liking to photography, but it wasn’t until I was 24 when I discovered my deep love for it. It seemed to have captured my imagination more than anything. That is when I began to point the lens at people in addition to landscapes.

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VictorofValencia…what’s the story behind your Instagram handle? 

Funny you ask that. Most people in the “social media” world call me Victor, which always cracks me up. My friends know me as Luke. Victor is actually my middle name, named after my grandfather. Valencia was an area outside of Los Angeles close to where my grandmother lived. I put two and two together and it just seemed right at the time. Valencia also holds some sort of metaphorical meaning to me, representing a sort of “getaway” location. A place to go to let go. Maybe I should go to Spain?

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You photograph a lot of our favorite FP Me girls out west. How did these creative relationships form?

My Free People relationships began when my band, “Bud Bronson & The Good Timers” went on our first West Coast tour. We had another band accompany us for the first leg of that tour and the bass player of that band, Nate Wilson, was married to Amber Wilson, now a great friend and the Free People Superhero badass you all have grown to know and love. She also lives here in Denver. We hit it off creatively and began setting up shoots in and around the city.

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How would you describe your photography style?

That is always a tough question to answer. It evolves often, as well as the content, but I have always leaned toward a more natural aesthetic — clean, minimal and emotive. In my portrait work I love to convey the beauty IN a person and try to accentuate the story by visually acknowledging the landscape or environment in which the subject exists. Sometimes I stray away from a particular style. I think that it’s important to explore new ways of looking at things. It’s just real. It’s necessary for me.

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Colorado is one of my favorite places,  for many reasons. What are the top three places you would recommend to visit in the state?

The Great Sand Dunes are by far one of the most mystical locations you could visit. They are other-worldly and, for that reason, they are alluring. Coming from the mountains, I can’t help but point people toward some of those mountain towns like Carbondale, Aspen, Ouray and Telluride. They hold some amazing sights of their own. The western slope is pretty incredible, too, since it is the launching point to the desert country, a place that holds half of my soul. Do make the extra mile to Moab, UT. It surely is an oasis.

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What does a typical day in the life of Luke look like?

Luke days are great days, I must say. It often begins with a cup of black coffee, a personal listening party of some of my favorite albums and me editing all morning, working on all types of projects. After that I hop in my car and drive to the mountains or to a variety of weird urban locations for shoots. Weirder the better. Upon my return I jet into the studio to banter with my band pals and work on new songs, upcoming tour sets and discuss what we are doing with our lives.

If you were to dump out your camera bag, what would the contents look like? 

My camera bag is not a traditional bag. It’s more of a trusty yellow backpack with all your essentials. In it: camera, lenses, extra batteries, memory cards, an American flag, goldfish snack crackers, headlamp, beanie, knife, journal and headphones. I might be able to survive an apocalypse.

That being said, if you had to shoot on one camera and only one lens for the rest of your life, what would it be? 

One camera and a lens to rule them all? I would probably go with my full-frame Nikon and the 35mm art 1.4. It is a thing of beauty.

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Who are some of your favorite photographers?

There is so much talent out there. So many people inspire me. Lately, I have been blown away by the works of Bryan Castillo , Dylan Furst and portrait master Jeff Isy.

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If you could pick any location in the world to shoot, where would it be?

Hands down, the one place I want to go right now is Norway. I think about it every day. Every day.

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Do you have any personal favorite photography blogs you turn to when you’re in need of inspiration?

I usually look at many of my favorite photographers on Instagram and Tumblr for inspiration. I learned to play guitar by following other guitar players’ riffs and voicings. From there I was able to develop my own musical voice. I think the same applies to photography. I always look at others’ work to help inspire and grow my own.

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If you could give one piece of advice to any aspiring photographer, what would it be?

I would say that the single most important thing is to take a chance. Believe that what you are doing is right and you will find your way.  Step off the ledge into the unknown, whether it is trying something new in a photograph or in the grander scheme of pursuing photography as a whole.

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What’s the story behind your favorite photo you’ve ever taken? 

There is this winter photo I took a couple years back of a cabin alongside a river in Vail, Colorado (see below). It was during a snowstorm and I remember feeling tranquilized in the moment as it sat quietly along the hillside. Winter is very nostalgic for me. I suppose it reminds me of childhood and where I came from. There wasn’t anything visually outstanding about the photo but, to me, it remains one of my favorites for the mood it set me in.


Be sure to follow Luke on Instagram, and check out more of his work here

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8 years ago

With my coffee this morning, reading Luke’s interview and enjoying the photos started my day perfectly,
What a gem of a talented man!

8 years ago

Always incredible. what a dream to work with such vision!

8 years ago

What stunning photos. Really in love with his work!

Rae | Love from Berlin

8 years ago

ohhh what’aa photographs muhhaaaaaa.