Interview Mark Anthony Lacy
You are a retro photographer. Can you tell us about your career?
My interest in photography has always centered around people. I began by doing portraits and artistic nudes while in college. Later I went on to shoot live concerts, some beauty and fashion, as well as a bit of fetish photography. I happened to meet a woman who was a huge Bettie Page fan and really sparked my interest in pinup. Not long after that I found myself doing more and more research on the photographers, models, and publications of the 50s and 60s. Slowly I built up a collection of vintage lingerie, shoes, accessories, and props. I even learned how to do the hair and makeup myself. But I wasn’t interested in making the candy colored pinups that have smiling models sipping a Coke-a-Cola or getting their skirt caught in a car door to show off her stockings. I was drawn to the images of real women embracing their sensuality and wearing sexy vintage girdles and bullet bras. Over the years I worked to produce authentic looking images and developed my website. My love for the graphics and feel of midcentury publications led me to create my very on digital “pinup” magazine, UNLIMITED. It harkens back to the mens magazines of the late 50s and early 60s. I do all of the photography, layout, and writing myself. Although I’m not able to get it out on a regular basis, each issue is a true labor of love and those who have bought them give the magazine high marks.
Why do you think retro styles are so popular nowadays?
It seems that people are always looking back at a time gone by with great fondness and a sense of nostalgia. We tend to think that life was simpler and people were much happier “way back when”. That’s usually not the case but many like to think so. And thanks to the internet it’s easier than ever to pick and choose elements from the past and immerse one’s self in whatever strikes his or her fancy.
If you could live in the past, which time period would you choose?
Each era comes with it’s own pluses and minuses. In the 1950s, after World War II and the Korean Conflict, America experienced a period of economic prosperity and general optimism for the future. This continued into the early 1960s with the election of JFK and a commitment to space exploration. I love the styles and color palette of this era. Cars with tons of chrome and tail fins. Engaging music of every genre from Rock ’n Roll and Jazz to Country, Rhythm & Blues, and Pop. And a loosening of traditional social mandates. But on the negative side was overt racism, sexism, homophobia, and the constant threat of global destruction. Not quite the "walk in the park” we like to think it was.
What is the best part of being a photographer?
Putting together a retro glamour photo shoot allows me to combine many of my artistic interests. Set design, wardrobe, lighting, hair & makeup, as well as capturing the final image. Transforming a contemporary woman into a vintage vixen from decades ago is also quite an accomplishment. I love the reaction ladies have when they see themselves for the first time as one of my “creations”. I’ve helped them to embrace and express a side of themselves that they sometimes were completely unaware of before our session. I remember one woman thanking me for helping her achieve a fantasy that she never thought would come true. She was so happy that she had tears in her eyes. That was a very satisfying and humbling moment for me.
What is your opinion on the cultural climate in New York?
New York City has long been a kind of mecca for artists of all types. Musicians, dancers, actors, models, visual artists, writers, and more. Creative people seem to flock here from all over the country and various parts of the world. Ironically, New York is the most difficult place for artists to make a living actually doing their art. The costs of living here are astronomical and getting worse every day. The blood sweat and tears that should go into producing one’s work must instead be squandered on day to day survival. It’s a true test of one’s commitment to your dreams and making them come true.
See also: Interview-Rina-Bambina