Following on from our interview with Lily Monroe, we’ve had a chat with Frank Lam; burlesque photographer extraordinaire turned pin up magazine founder and editor.
Frank, you’ve just launched your own Pin-up magazine ‘Frankie’, what made you decide
to do this?
I’ve always been a fan of magazines, there are so many reasons why I started it. The main
reason would be to document all the talent of the local pin-up and burlesque scene here
in Montreal, there is no such mags in the whole Country anymore. Canada is such a vast
land, with soo much talent, and we’re clearly under represented. So that’d be my first
mission with the mag. I wanted to have a more tangible creative outlet that features our
I imagine it’s a lot of hard work, what’s been the most challenging aspect so far?
Really good question honestly. It’s been a blast putting it together, organizing the shoots,
etc.. I feel lucky because everything went so smooth for a first issue. I was dreaming to do
this for so long. I’m also lucky to have the support and input from other pin-up
photographers and magazine publishers. It’s amazing to be part of this great community
of artists. For the first issue I wanted to represent people that mean a lot for me. I put
Lily on the cover because it is symbolic because she is my girlfriend and my muse. But I
also put Lexxi Brown in it, she’s hot as hell and mega talented, but also a good friend and
she actually introduced me to Lily.
All that to say that the people in the first issue are all friends that I care a lot about and we
lift each other up. The most challenging aspect I think was to choose what to run in the
mag, and dealing with the stress that I put on my own shoulders.
You get some great effects working with black and white and polaroid shots, who is
your photography style inspired by?
Thank you. I loooove black n whites and polaroids. Polaroids are like my party-cam. I just
snap them here and there on sets and it really brings out the authentic and spontaneous
feeling. I find them also useful for the models to have something to share, while waiting
for the actual photos being edited. They work really well for internet teasers. My style of
photography has inspirations in many random things. Of course I love the vintage kinky
dudes like Irving Klaw and John Willie, they were so influential. I also have to mention I’ve
always been a huge fan of NY photographer Viva Van Story, I think she really changed the
pin-up game with her unique style, and really brought together the vintage/pin-up but
combined with a more edgier, fetish, punk vibe that I always loved. I’m heavily inspired by
music, rockabilly, psychobilly, punk. all that stuff. The Cramps has to be my favourite band
and their music and visual style has always been a huge inspiration. Montreal also has such a
rich history in terms of burlesque. In the 1940s John Willie briefly lived here and founded
Bizarre magazine and met his muse Gwendoline. In the 1950s Lili St-Cyr was the most
popular women in Quebec, performing the Gayety Theatre ( today called Théatre
nouveau-monde ) and was banned by the church for gross indecency. All the red-light
district history of Montreal in the 40’s – 60’s is also a huge inspiration for me. I studied it a
lot, and today I’m most proud of actually being here and documenting, creating pin-up
and burlesque art that’ll contribute to this part of Montreal’s history. I’m also fan of
skateboarding, arts, graffiti.. this stuff has nothing to do with pin-up really but made me
the artist I am today.
You’re based in Montreal, Canada. What’s the pin-up/burlesque/art scene like there?
It is actually really good, when I compare it to other Canadian cities or even in the states.
We have amaziiiing burlesque talent here. We are lucky to have The Wiggle Room, which
is the only 100% burlesque cabaret in Canada that showcases more than 3 shows a week.
The Wiggle’s 5 years old this year, but it feels like it’s been here forever. It’s THE home of
Montreal burlesque. The scene is very vibrant for sure! As for the pin-up scene, nothing
compared to the states, but in all proportions, we’re doing very good. We have good
bands, a few pin-up boutiques, vintage car-shows, indie pin-up clothing brands, a couple
legit pin-up photographers. I knew we had good potential, but I only realized it when I
started travelling. I feel the burlesque artists in Montreal are making hell of a good
impression in the international scene because of that ‘Montreal flavour’ that I can’t really
put words on.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in pin up photography?
This is hard. You have to be into the culture before starting anything. You have to make
contacts, and study the genre, the aesthetics, meet people, practice, and find a muse that
trusts you and is willing to work and learn. It’s of an ultimate importance to understand
the values that pin-up and burlesque artists are about. Women empowerment, body/sex
positivity. etc... It is not all about the sexy lingerie fetish time. Although it’s really nice. You
really gotta understand and apply those values. Otherwise it’s not gonna work. Find your
style, develop your skills, be creative :D
You’re heading to Viva Las Vegas this spring, what’s the plan while you’re there?
I cannot wait it’s gonna be the best time. I’ve already booked a bunch of shoots with
amazing people while we’re out there. Stay tuned in Frankie Pin-up Mag to see it all. I’m
also very happy for the Stray Cats reunion and all the cool bands playing. The burlesque
aspect of VLV is off the chain this year it’s gonna be crazy.
What else is in store for you for the year head?
More shoots, more creative work, continue to contribute to the Canadian scene with the
mag and our burlesque shows. Hopefully more travelling and meeting international
models and artists. More collaborations with amazing lingerie brands : )
Buy Frankie Pin Up Magazine here; http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/1405902
All photographs by Frank Lam, featuring Lily Monroe in Pip & Pantalaimon Lingerie