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VSCO Shot to Fame as a Hot Summer Meme. Can it Keep the Momentum and its Soul?

Photos of carefree teens in Birkentstocks tagged VSCOgirls flooded social media but the company prides itself on all the ways it’s not like Instagram

VSCO mobile app
VSCO mobile appPhotographer: Anatolii Babii/Alamy

VSCO got its start in 2011 as a software program to help professional and hobby photographers edit and enhance their work, using both traditional touch-up tools and more creative ones like gauzy, colorful filters. In the past six months, it has become famous for something else. 

Credit the #VSCOgirls.

Through little effort of its own, VSCO was catapulted into the global limelight this summer. Teenagers and young women discovered that VSCO’s filters perfectly captured a certain carefree, beachy aesthetic, inspiring thousands of snapshots of long-haired girls clutching Hydro Flask water bottles and sporting Birkenstock sandals to pose in sun-kissed, wind-swept photos. As the trend gained momentum, it also turned into a meme, often coming off as a parody of itself. 
Posts tagged #VSCOgirl flooded Instagram and TikTok, and the theme even showed up at the Global Climate Strike. 

The free publicity has drawn in a new cohort of users who saw the hashtag on their social media feeds and tracked down the VSCO app. They liked what they found—  not only original photo-editing tools but also an online, low-pressure community of creatives. Think of it as Instagram, but with no likes or follower counts.