Growing up, Marcus Lam would use a point-and-shoot camera to take photos of his Hot Wheels toys. Now he photographs automotive legends across Metro Vancouver to keep the history and tradition of Japanese supercars alive.
Having been interested in cars from an early age, Lam attended his first car meet around five years ago and packed his camera. Hundreds of car meets later and Lam is well known in the Vancouver car scene for his work. Even with his evocative images of some of the cleanest builds in Metro Vancouver combined with stylized editing, Lam says there is still much more to learn and master.
‘A good photo should make you feel something’
"In photography, you can never learn too much, you'll always learn something new,” Lam said. "It's about placing your car in a really nice background and a really nice foreground so you can differentiate the foreground subject and the background and a good photo should make you feel something."
Having seen so many highly sought-after cars Lam says as time goes on he sometimes gets desensitized to a vehicle’s fame. That was far from the case though when he saw the car that was so formative to his passion for Japanese cars, the orange and black Veilside RX7 that drifted onto screens in 2006’s The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift.
“That was like the one car that had kinda been like one of my childhood dream cars,” Lam said, adding that often it's the people behind the wheel who make the experience all the more worthwhile. “It's not even about the cars because most of the time a shoot is just like a hangout with the owner, we chat, become really good friends."
Lam noted there are a few “bad apples” in Vancouver’s car community which he fears can give the rest a bad reputation through reckless driving and a general lack of common sense. At the core, he said, most enthusiasts are respectful people and just want to have fun and share in automotive culture.
‘Keeping the tradition of Japanese car culture alive in Vancouver’
Through his photography, Lam has partnered with a friend’s brand called revive199x.com which focuses on bringing back 90s styling on modified cars.
“It's just keeping the tradition of Japanese car culture alive in Vancouver. Trying to promote it to the new wave of enthusiasts," Lam said, explaining there are many people who buy the brand’s stickers as a way to get into the scene.
"The brand exists to try and give them a glimpse into what proper Japanese styling for cars is like," Lam added.
Lam attributes the fascination and obsession with these cars to the large Asian population in Richmond and Vancouver. He says that many of his friends come from Hong Kong which has a large scene for 80s and 90s Japanese cars.
The lure of the unattainable
“A lot of them come over here with that interest in mind," Lam said. "They've kind of been unattainable because they were never sold here so to get one you have to import one or find one that's been imported and I think it's the fascination of having things that we didn't readily have here as one thing."
Like most things, the Vancouver car scene was greatly disrupted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic with car meets becoming a rarity. Interestingly though the pandemic offered some unique upsides for car enthusiasts as well. With fewer people commuting to work each day, Metro Vancouver’s streets carried much less traffic and opened up the road for longer, more enjoyable drives. Lower fuel prices were also a boon for those with a heavier gas pedal.
Lam says that as restrictions open back up the car community is looking forward to gathering again to show off their rides.