Can you tell us about the path you took to become a professional photographer?
After going to an academic high school instead of an art and design high school (mistake) I decided to become an architect. (second mistake) The reason for that was to avoid the old starving artist cliche. An assignment for an urban landscaping class was a slide presentation. That forced me to actually learn how to use a real 35 mm camera. A few years later I got into taking photos as a hobby and had a friend show me how to use the darkroom. The more photography that I did the more that I grew to love it. Things got to a point where I was in the darkroom more than students in the photography classes. I thought maybe I could just graduate as an architecture major and do photography. But there was a problem. I had stopped doing work in all of my architecture classes and was about to fail
The same thing goes for anyone who wants to do well at something. MASTER the fundamentals. Learn the basics of photography and explore them to the fullest. Lighting, composition, working with models, etc. Do your homework and really study the great photographers in art history. Regardless of whether or not you want to do work like theirs you can learn from what they did and the techniques that they used. Also, I was fortunate enough to learn photography BEFORE Photoshop. Don’t take a lousy shot and rely on Photoshop to make it better. Shoot as if there was no second chance to make that shot a good one.
Apart from sheer hard work, what would you say has been the main key to the success of your business?
To be successful at anything I think you must really love what you do. I try to make my work look as authentic as possible. As though I was a photographer working in the glamour field of the early sixties. Sometimes being borderline obsessed can be a good thing. I’m constantly on the lookout for things that can make my work better. Vintage props and lingerie, hairstyles from the 50’s/60’s. And I study magazines and films of the period to see how rooms were decorated and how the women acted and posed. All this adds up so when people see my work they can tell how much attention I pay to detail. That’s what really engages the viewer and gets them to appreciate the work all that much more.
What do you feel is the most challenging thing about photographing pinups?
For me the most challenging thing about shooting pinups is transforming a modern woman into a lady from fifty years ago. First comes the hair and makeup. Then the wardrobe, shoes, and jewelry. But most difficult may be getting the poses right. There’s a particular way that ladies sat, stood, and posed back then. Getting a gal who’s used to wearing jeans and sneakers everyday to pose like a lady in a vintage girdle ain’t easy. LOL
The first photographer that comes to your mind and why?
When it comes to my style of pinup the guy who set the bar is Elmer Batters. he turned his love for leggy ladies and photography into an industry. He wasn’t into the cutesie stuff but did what he could to capture the true sensuality of the women he photographed. He even created his own magazines that catered to men who shared his fetish for nyloned nymphs. That’s what inspired me to create my own digital pinup magazine UNLIMITED. I do all of the photography, writing, and design on it myself. This is a real labor of love.
I’ve spent a lifetime studying people. The way they move and the way that they act. Old films have always been a favorite of mine. From classics by the top Hollywood directors, to great film noirs, to B grade sci-fi stuff. Mid century design reflected the optimism of the post war era and the futuristic modernism of the “Atomic” age. Doing my photography allows me to combine all of my interests in a way that really satisfies my creative urges.
Something you’re still learning?
Every shoot is a learning experience. Even if I use the same sets, props and wardrobe each model brings something unique to the mix. And the experience of working with her presents new challenges and opportunities for taking my art a little further.
In general, during a session, how many pics would you say you take to find “the right one”?
Again, I have to say that I was lucky enough to learn photography before Photoshop and digital cameras. When I was a poor art student with a roll of film that had 35 shots on it I knew that I’d better go into that studio and take 35 good shots. There was no take 30 shots and hope to get 5 good ones. I had to make every frame count. There was even a time in school when I was shooting with a large format camera where you only shot one frame of film at a time before reloading the camera. That experience really taught me about making sure that the shot is really worth taking.
Which one item of equipment would you say is the most important to you?
In studio photography LIGHTING is everything. A talented photographer can make good photos using any kind of camera but good lighting is crucial. One of the most influential photographers, lighting wise, was George Hurrell. He took some extraordinary portraits of Hollywood stars in the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. His key piece of lighting equipment was a softbox on a boom which allowed him to get soft lighting on his subjects and dramatic shadows. After studying his work and reading about his technique I adopted that same lighting set up.
Are you a self taught photographer or did you have a mentor that showed you the ropes?
I began taking photos on my own and was already well on my way before I changed majors in college. What going to art school did for me was to give me access to teachers who could show me the technical aspects of how to make my work even better.
How do you decide on locations & subjects?
The sets that I use are changing piece by piece as I find new props. I’ll change a lamp or painting here and there. New drapes, tables, or knick-knacks. Slowly morphing my studio into a 50’s bachelor pad. As for subjects, when I look at a woman I have to use my mind’s eye to be able to see her as a retro vixen. Even before I get her into the studio and go through hair and make up I have to know that she’s right for my work. Some women have a retro sexiness that I can se in them and have to work to bring out. Girls who dress up like Bettie Page to go to the grocery store are easy but to find a “diamond in the rough” and turn her into a convincing retro model is a real accomplishment.
What is your motto?
Well, since “Live long and prosper” is already taken I’ll just say “Others may or may not like your work but the person who creates it has to LOVE it.”
Mark Anthony Lacy