In an age when anyone with a smartphone can share photos with the world, it’s easy to lose sight of good photography in a sea of shoot-to-post images. So when Greg Lutze co-founded VSCO with partner Joel Flory, he set out to not only support artists with a new set of powerful tools, but also to give mobile photography a renewed sense of authenticity.
Beginning with filter packs for other software that emulated the feel of older media, VSCO eventually condensed these presets into a mobile app that gave artists an uncluttered means of sharing their work. As the project grows, it continues to nurture and prepare creatives for their respective journeys.
In this edition of our #Equipped series, Lutze shares his inspirations and the story behind VSCO.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Greg Lutze. I am a husband, father and son, as well as Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer at VSCO. Our goal is to equip artists with the tools they need to create, and then support and promote them on their journey. We are made by creatives, for creatives.
How did you become interested in your field?
I’ve always loved design, photography, music — almost any form of artistic pursuit. It is part of who I am. I think that is what drives our team at VSCO — we are compelled to create because it feels like the right thing to do. We have to make things; we can’t sleep if we don’t.
Where did the idea for VSCO originally come from?
Joel Flory, my friend and VSCO’s CEO, and I had worked together on some previous projects and we both came from creative backgrounds, he as a photographer and myself as a creative director. We started small with three other friends — Mike Wu, Wayne Wu and Zach Hodges — building digital tools we wanted to use ourselves.
We also built VSCO Grid because we wanted a minimal place to showcase photos without the pressure of likes and followers and started the VSCO Artist Initiative, a scholarship for artists to give back to the creative community. VSCO was born because we thought things could be better and decided to do something about it instead of just complaining.
Have you always been interested in film?
I love film. It is a sad thing that Kodak and Fuji can’t make a go of it financially and keep axing their stocks. But regardless, the method for art and communication will always change as technology and times change. The focus should never be on the tool, but how you use that tool to say something. A good photograph isn’t good because it was shot with a Leica or an iPhone.
Where do you find inspiration?
I believe you make your own. Of course, you garner influences from everywhere — the internet, magazines, music, nature, traveling, your friends — but ultimately, inspiring things are inspiring only if you make them part of you, part of your process, part of your soul. There is nothing new under the sun, but you can make something unique by adding your perspective to it.
How do you apply your inspirations to your work?
The bigger factor is pure determination and drive. It’s one thing to see something and feel inspired, but it’s an entirely different thing to step up and actually create something. At VSCO, we are driven by the desire to be the best. We want to win, and we want the creative class — our peers – to win along with us.
How do you equip yourself for a day of work?
I’m old school. The first thing I do is kiss my wife, and then I pray. I start the day by going for a hike or hitting the gym. I used to sleep in late and scramble to get to work on time, but getting up early puts me in a better mindset to face the day. I spend an hour with my kids before heading off to work, grabbing some coffee on the way and doing a quick check-in on my teams: Chelsea FC, Seattle Sounders and the Denver Broncos.
In the world of technology, VSCO is a David in the land of Goliaths. We have to fight hard, guided by our vision and grit. Before work, I get in a fighter’s mindset — stay hungry, stay true. The VSCO team is like family, so I will do everything possible to protect what we’ve built to ensure they are taken care of, and that the creative community wins.
How should collaboration work and how do you see it happening with your fellow creatives?
Most collaborations are synonymous with compromise, but the ones that get it right produce the best results. Two of the keys to a collaboration are 1) mutual respect for both sides and 2) giving the relationship time to grow. If there’s no trust, both parties will wrestle for control and the end product looks worse for it. If you rush things, well, things just looked rushed. We are working on a soon-to-be-released collaboration with HYPEBEAST, and I know it will succeed because it embodies the creative spirit of both brands. We’ve put a lot of time and energy into making sure it is done right.
How has technology influenced and affected your work?
VSCO is a combination of art and technology. Technology has opened up all kinds of doors for creativity and that is a fantastic thing. We want to equip anyone, anywhere to create, to have the power to say something meaningful through photography.
How do you break monotony?
If you are bored or feel life is monotonous, you are doing the wrong thing — or the right thing with the wrong motives.
Could you describe your style and how it has evolved from your formative years until now?
I generally prefer darker colors, but occasionally mix in warmer ones as accents. I’m more concerned about fit than anything, so I prefer my clothes to be trim and tailored. On any given day, I wear slim trousers or jeans with oxfords or Air Force Ones, and a pressed long-sleeve button up shirt underneath the Commuter Trucker Jacket.
My style has evolved over the years and I’ve definitely made my fair share of fashion mistakes, particularly during a short and ill-fated hardcore/emo phase. But as I grow older, I’m trying to dress with a subtlety and quiet confidence that reflects my age and job title.
When did you know that your vision was worth pursuing and how did you prepare to pursue it?
I’m not sure exactly when, but there was a definite turning point where we knew we were onto something. Joel and I both worked our other jobs for quite some time before making the jump full-time to VSCO. Looking back, my previous 10+ years working as a designer/art/creative director was the best preparation possible.
For more on Greg’s work, check out his VSCO Grid and the VSCO project. For more from our #Equipped series, be sure to have a look at our previous coverage of Chicago photographer, Trashhand, and rap artist, Kid Ink, and stay tuned for more from Levi’s® x HYPEBEAST in our next edition coming soon.
Get Equipped at levi.com.