Denver Photographer and Musician Luke Gottlieb Talks Alter Egos and Last Meals

Luke Gottlieb is an editorial, commercial, and lifestyle photographer – creating content for L’Oréal, Free People and Urban Outfitters.

Gottlieb grew up as a mountain kid in Carbondale – nestled in the Roaring Fork Valley. His parents moved from California to Aspen in the 1970s – when Aspen was a popular retreat for artists, including country singer-songwriter, John Denver. Gottlieb’s father was a pedal steel guitar player in Liberty, a band who toured with John Denver – and a bandmate wrote Denver’s hit, “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”

Up the family tree, Gottlieb’s paternal grandparents were accomplished musicians: Victor Gottlieb was a cellist and Eudice Shapiro was a violinist – both played in the Los Angeles Philharmonic and worked with several Hollywood production companies. Shapiro was the first female concertmaster for a studio orchestra in La La Land. 

Photo courtesy of Luke Gottlieb.

His grandfather is where Gottlieb’s moniker originates. “Growing up, I hated my middle name Victor. When older, I found it unique,” said Gottlieb. “My photography handle has mystery: Victor of Valencia … like it’s my alter-ego from a far off mystical land.

Gottlieb graduated college with a degree in environmental studies and began working for a solar company before pursuing photography. He enjoyed taking pictures since he was a teen, with point-and-shoot or film. “I quit my job because my heart wasn’t in it,” admitted Gottlieb. “I had one of those conversations where my dad said to follow my dreams.”

“Luke is my favorite photographer,” said model, Sabrina O’Neal. “He has an incredible eye and style I was drawn to as soon as I saw his work.” “[He] is amazingly talented with a flair for making the ordinary beautiful,” adds Gabriela Iliescu. “I had the pleasure to shoot with him in London.”

Gottlieb took the time to speak with us about his craft, background, and his involvement with local Denver rock band, Bud Bronson & The Good Timers.  

303 Magazine: As a child, what did you want to be?

Luke Gottlieb: I wanted to be a football or baseball player. I was obsessed with Colorado sports.

 303: What do you shoot with?

LG: Nikon. All the brands are so good – but I’m invested in Nikon.

303: On your website, you state, “I pride myself on my ability to connect.” Please expand.

LG: The ability to connect with your subject is the most important. If you know everything technically but lack the means to make your subject comfortable, you’re not gonna capture much. I try to be personable, outgoing, and trustworthy. 

“All my photos with Luke have stories. He has an infectious personality and a talent for moments, adventures, and for connecting with people. It’s what makes the shoot—and ultimately—the photos, special.” – Laura Dennis, model

303: What have been your most exciting shoots or projects? 

LG: My favorites are ones for my portfolio – where there’s no pressure from a client and I [explore] with a team of stylists. I was in Mexico before COVID hit—in Tulum—and did some really great shoots down there.

Traveling helps me break from my comfort zone – I’ll reach out to modeling agencies on a whim … and those have been inspiring.

303: What have been some of your best travel experiences? 

LG: When I went to Israel. I have Jewish heritage and felt a connection to that place. Every time I go to Europe, I have the best time ­– with opportunities to meet a diversity of people. I love learning about different cultures.

 Oh, South America! … beautiful people and landscapes – and amazing food! I’ve been to Argentina and Chile. The Andes are incredible.

 My favorite place is Mexico – hands down.

 303: What’s a lesson you learned early in photography?

LG: Taking chances … not being afraid of mistakes – and not getting hung up on every technical aspect being dialed-in. Also, being humble is important – admitting you don’t know everything.

 303: Who are some of your favorite photographers?

LG: I like Lachlan Bailey; he’s done work for GQ – it’s timeless. Also, Lara Jade – an English fashion photographer; she’s been in Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue.

 “Luke is not only an insanely talented photographer but also a fun person to be around. I think my photoshoot turned out so well because he took time to plan the extra details. He’s so great at working as a team to guide you … to get the exact feeling of the shot.” – Christina Zapolski, model

Christina Zapolski. Photo by Luke Gottlieb.

303: On your website, you mention music. Talk to us.

LG: Music is a huge part of my life – arguably, as big as photography. I started piano at six and guitar at 12 . I moved to Denver to join Bud Bronson & The Good Timers. I play lead guitar and sing backing vocals.

 303: Talk more.

LG: Brian [Beer] convinced me to move to Denver, saying: “You have to play in this band. Don’t think about it. Do it.” At the time, I was ready for something new. We’ve recorded three EPs and two Long Plays. We’re currently in the studio working on another EP – a 17-minute rock odyssey. 

 303: Bud Bronson’s music has been described as pop-punk meets classic rock. What do you think?

LG: We have different backgrounds. Our fusion is a conglomerate of Thin Lizzy, Queen, 2000s pop-punk, Iron Maiden, and ’80s thrash metal. The twin guitar thing is our bread-and-butter – harmonizing guitar leads is a lost art we’re trying to keep alive. 

Bud Bronson & The Good Timers, left to right: Luke Gottlieb, Matty Clark, Forrest Bartosh, Brian Beer. Photo by Nikki A. Rae Photography

303: What are some of your favorite musicians and bands? 

LG: I have varied taste … death metal, jazz, country. When first into guitar, I was a huge Metallica fan – my kings. I listen to Jimmy Eat World, The War on Drugs … R&B as well: D’Angelo and Jill Scott.

 303: Where have you played? Did you do a show in Tijuana?

LG: We’ve been all over. We played South by Southwest. The Tijuana shows will always be memorable. How many people can say they cruised the border to play a show and return to San Diego in eight hours? 

303: Where are some of the band’s favorite places to perform in Denver?

LG: Hi Dive is our clubhouse and fortress. We’ve had memorable shows at Lion’s Lair … and awesome shows at the Marquis. Denver has a diminishing local scene that we hope recovers … and grows. Independent venues are vital.

303: Lastly, for fun, if you were sent to the gallows tomorrow – for being a terrible, horrible serial murderer (which you are not) – what would your last meal be?

LG: Hands down: a taco bar – definitely Mexican, with all the fixings … and margaritas. I’m not big on sweets; I’d end my life with a salty snack. If I have to pick a sweet dessert: a watermelon popsicle.

To learn more about Luke Gottlieb and to view his work, go to