What are we leaving behind? That question began haunting professional photographers (and sisters) Katie Thurmes and Jenna Walker about seven years ago, as they used their cameras to document milestones in their lives and others’. “We’re all creating this imagery that’s important to each of our personal stories, and many of us aren’t doing anything with it,” Thurmes says. The disparity between the vast stashes of images on our phones and computers and the few photos we print out to actually hold and admire inspired the pair—along with Walker’s husband, Matt—to launch Artifact Uprising, a photo-goods company whose products (including photo books, prints, and wall art) stand out for their elegant, minimalist approach to preserving the memories that comprise our life stories.
Since Artifact Uprising’s launch in October 2012, the company’s goal hasn’t just been to create beautiful products. “It’s not enough to do business; you must do it right and well,” Thurmes says, pointing to the countless hours the three co-founders spent studying the teachings of what she calls “the eco-conscious, social entrepreneurs,” such as Toms founder Blake Mycoskie and Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard. Responsible use of materials drives product development at Artifact Uprising: For example, the photo books’ interior pages are printed on recycled paper or on paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, and the handcrafted calendar is affixed to a clipboard made of beetle-kill pine—a direct result of summers Thurmes spent in Grand Lake seeing the beetles destroy the trees.
In fact, it’s hard to imagine Artifact Uprising growing up anywhere but in Colorado. The emphasis on high-quality materials, the site’s simple interface, the push for amateur photographers to shoot their adventures—it all feels like a reflection of the Centennial State’s persona. (Even though California-based VSCO acquired the company in late 2014, its headquarters remain in LoDo; Thurmes and Walker serve as advisers to the business.) “So much of our brand is centralized on the importance of experience,” Thurmes says. “That’s something we’re really good at in Colorado—getting out and living our lives, doing things worth remembering, and—we hope—giving ourselves a way to keep those adventures alive.”
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