Vicky Lam

Vicky Lam Looks Smart in Tangerine

by Alex Beetham on June 25, 2015

It’s amazing what creativity can come from being conscious of pinching pennies.  Perhaps it was dorm days in college, perhaps the first few months in your own pad.  We’ve all been there, channelling some DIY resourcefulness mixed with a dash of MacGuyver.  Not always the most effective methods, but hats off for creativity to say the least.  The folks at John St. and Tangerine had far too much fun coming up with some “life hacks” to drive home some smart banking choices.  Vicky and team also had a blast creating and photographing these contraptions.  From Vicky:

Surprisingly, all of these life hacks exist out there (and work!). Whether they are the smartest money saving ways, I’ll let you decide. And fyi, the scrubbing drill actually works!     – Vicky

Take a look!

Client:  Tangerine Banking
Agency:  John St.
Photographer:  Vicky Lam
AD:  Jenny Luong
Copywriter:  Kohl Forsberg
Agency producer:  Jen Shapiro
Photography producer:  Phaedra Kennedy
Photography assistants:  Bryan Ulrich & Daniela Garcia


You may have spotted some of these scrolling through your Facebook wall:



All Images © Vicky Lam


    Mary Ellen Mark

    by Chris Payne on May 29, 2015

    We as the creators of photographs can sometimes become lost in the process of creating technical perfection.  It is our job to expertly bring to life the vision of others and to lend our own unique stylistic elements to create award winning images.  Mary Ellen Mark made some of the most incredible, timeless photographs by being present during the moments that were true and honest.  The world lost an icon this week, but the library of photographs that Mary Ellen Mark left behind is nothing short of historic.  Here are some memories made by Mary Ellen Mark’s work that a few Westsiders would like to share.

    “In 1987 I was in my first apartment going to art college studying painting and photography.  I found a book of Mary Ellen Marks in the library sometime during my first semester.  This series of Damm Family who were then living in their car in LA was what made me take notice of her work.  Her ability to portray people that lived on the margins without being patronizing seemed so new to me. She was elevating them without losing the reality of their situation.  It was subtle, sensitive, bold and daring all at the same time.  I was 18 and she had already been shooting professionally for 25 years.” – Tom Nesbitt, Partner- Westside Studioimage1

    “I took photography in high school when I made the switch from Catholic to public school.  Our class went to Toronto to shoot black and white film.  I walked around with some friends- each of us shooting the different things that caught our eyes.  I was not afraid to approach strangers.  I loved it.  I craved a reaction to the intrusion and I was fascinated by the range of responses.  Some wanted to be friends and some wanted to fight.  It wasn’t until I developed this film that I really saw some things I loved.  My teacher made me print certain frames.  Close portraits – some too close.  Uncomfortable.  Strange movements.  It didn’t make sense to me at first, I didn’t understand why he picked those images to print.  He countered with telling me that is was probably the same reason that caused me to take the picture in the first place.  He told me I would like Diane Arbus and Mary Ellen Mark.  He was right. 

    After some convincing and a lot of help from my teacher Mr. Ainsely,  I changed my application submissions from Math at the University level to Photography. 
    Now after shooting professionally for years I’m finally having a show of black and white portraits.  Dennis Hopper played a huge role in this show and this picture of him as well.  Mary Ellen Mark got to shoot behind the scenes of my favourite movie Apocalypse Now.  Here are a couple shots from her time on set.” -Nikki Ormerod, Photographer
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    “I was lucky enough to actually hear Mary Ellen Mark speak in person on two different occasions when I was still in school.  Although I personally never knew of her work beforehand, I recall being blown away after attending her first talk and seeing her striking body of work.  It amazed me to see how she was able to really capture so many stories and personalities in her very raw and honest photographs.  I remember her showing us examples of her photography from the beginnings of her career, and it was remarkable how she could relate to so many people from such vastly different worlds.  She really had a gift in seeing through people and connecting with them.  I remember seeing her body of work from Falkland Road, uncovering the stories of the street prostitutes and women of brothels.  The work was raw, and very intimate and it surprised me to see just how close she was able to get with her subjects.  Sometimes it almost felt intrusive and voyeuristic.  I asked her just how she was able to gain the trust of the prostitutes despite an obvious cultural and language barrier.  She responded that it took confidence.  She persistently approached the people she met with confidence, and with that, her subjects trusted her guidance and vision to tell their stories.  This resonated deeply with me, and it is evident in all of Mary Ellen Mark’s photographs that she carried that confidence with her wherever she went, and the people she photographed trusted her with ease.    Mary Ellen Mark had an incredible gift of capturing humanity and humility, and her vision will be greatly missed.
    It’s hard for me to pick a single favourite image, because Mary Ellen Mark has had such a vast body of work, each project varying so different from others.  Sometimes her vision uncovers despair and hopelessness, and other times her work has a humorous undertone as seen in her work for Twins.  Perhaps I’m more optimistic, but I really enjoyed the Twins series and hearing the often hilarious stories behind each set of twins.”- Vicky Lam, Photographer


      Vicky sizes up Bayer

      by Alex Beetham on December 3, 2014

      Vicky Lam dusted off her writing chops to give you a first hand look into one of her recent assignments. Take it away Vicky!

      I feel like I’ve had my fair share of shooting miniature scenes over the years so I was delighted when the team at MacLaren McCann approached me to work on a unique project for Bayer Crop Sciences.  Miniatures are always fun to shoot, exploring the different ways of bringing life to tiny characters.  However it’s also because of the miniature size that makes it challenging too.  The slightest movements make the biggest differences.  Thankfully, I had help from prop builder extraordinaire, Jamie Oxenham to create our tiny construction team and stylist, Christina Yan, to build our landscape of bread.

      Here are a few shots from our shoot and how it all came together.

      To give a sense of scale, each figure is about 2-3 cm tall and was custom made based off of moulds and altered for body positioning. Each piece was then carefully hand painted!

      BTS comp1

      Our construction site consisted of breads from all over the world.  It was carb overload at the end of the shoot day.


      Our little figures hard at work:


      Stylist Christina Yan, and assistant Christa Guia carefully start slicing down the the baguette tower for the construction workers:

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      And here is the final ad:

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      Concepts like this are always fun to shoot, and it is what keeps me excited about studio photography.  This shoot was even more of a surprise when I realized that the ad would appear in National Geographic magazine!  As a studio, still life photographer, I never imagined any of my work would ever appear in National Geographic magazine.  I’ve always thought of National Geographic to be a staple of top notch photojournalism and the best of the best of wildlife photography.  Ok, so maybe I didn’t shoot a story for National Geographic, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel just a little giddy at the idea of even appearing in a global publication.  And it was all thanks to Bayer and MacLaren McCann for giving me the opportunity to do so. – Vicky

      Client: Bayer Crop Science
      Agency: MacLaren McCann
      AD: Steven Davenport
      Prop builder: Jamie Oxenham
      Prop stylist: Christina Yan
      Photography producer: Phaedra Kennedy
      Assistants: Rebecca Leach and Christa Guia
      Retouching: Robyn Nowoczin
      All Images & BTS © Vicky Lam


        Vicky + Paper + inBusiness = Profit

        by Alex Beetham on November 12, 2014

        November 11th is a day of significance for many.  First off it being Remembrance day – a day in honour of the soldiers who fought and perished in the many wars past and present.  On a lighter note, it is also international Pocky day (or also known as Peppero day) which happens to also be my favourite snack of all time.  But little did I know that it is also Origami day, which brings me to reflect upon one of my shoots from earlier this year.  Although it isn’t truly origami, it still involved some meticulous paper craft and design.  I was asked by art director, Erik Mohr, to illustrate a story for Globe and Mail’s quarterly publication, InBusiness magazine.  Innovation was the theme of this issue, featuring Canadian companies that are the frontrunners in their respective fields.

        This meant that I also had to be innovative in my approach to illustrate five very different companies and create a series that would tie them all together.  Erik had mentioned the idea of exploring paper illustrations. So, it only seemed fitting for me to call Kyosuke Nishida and Dominic Liu of Studio Toki. I’ve collaborated with Studio Toki before on other paper based projects, so I knew they would be the perfect fit for this one.  With their design savvy and eye for detail, we were able to come up with a series of original, 3D paper illustrations.

        It took a lot of brainstorming, sketches, construction, problem solving and a bit of MacGyver to make it all happen.  Although the process was sometimes painstaking and challenging, seeing our ideas transform into a tangible form was really rewarding.  Not to mention, we were left with awesome and cute little paper sculptures afterwards!

        Here is a glimpse into our pre-shoot process with some sketches from Studio Toki:


        Here are the final paper illustrations representing Canadian companies with innovative business approaches:

        Pebble Smart Watch:

        Silicon Sisters Interactive:

        David’s Tea:

        Freed & Freed International :

        A.F. Theriault & Son:

        And finally the opening image –  a structure a bit inspired by M.C. Escher’s surreal drawings:

        Many thanks to Erik Mohr for the unique assignment and also to Kyosuke and Dominic for helping to bring this idea to life!

        Client:  inBusiness Magazine
        Art Director: Erik Mohr
        Paper design and construction: Studio Toki  - Dominic Liu and Kyosuke Nishida
        Photography interns: Christa Guia & Kate Ince

        A look behind the scenes:

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        photo 2-1

        photo 5

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          Vicky joins the Commonwealth

          by Alex Beetham on October 14, 2014

          It’s a rarity for a band to stick it out for over 2 years these days.  How about 2 decades, with it’s original members no less?  It’s also a rarity to hear of bands composed of 4 song writers, all given equal share of the creative pie.  This kind of democracy lends itself to a very fitting 11th studio album title for the Halifax born Sloan:  Commonwealth.  The honour of photographing the album artwork for this record, was given to our very own Vicky Lam.

          I was really excited when I heard I would be photographing Sloan’s LP cover art.  I have never had any work appear on a record before, and the idea of doing so for a great Canadian group like Sloan really made me feel happy.  As a still life shooter, I’m so used to working alone in a dark studio, so I was really excited to know that Chris Murphy and Jay Ferguson from Sloan would be there in person.  Perhaps I was even a little starstruck by the idea.  However, when the shoot day came by and I met Chris and Jay, they turned out to be the nicest and most laid back guys ever! I was even more impressed when I learned that they usually have a hand in designing all of their album art.  This one was not an exception.  It was neat to learn that each item was carefully hand picked by the band members themselves and all have personal significance and history. It’s a great feeling to know that the guys from Sloan take so much care not only in their music, but all the smaller details too. And it’s probably the reason why they’ve held such a successful and ongoing musical career for the last 20+ years.

          If you look closely, you’ll notice all the items tie in to the song titles.  Can you spot them?




          Jay Ferguson, putting the finishing touches on his carefully thought out composition.


          You can read what other people think about Commonwealth, (Noisy, Pitchfork, COS,) but might I suggest you pick yourself up a copy on iTunes/Amazon, or give it a streamy listen for yourself!

          Here’s a little trip down Sloan discography lane…


            Vicky Visualizes Vimovo’s Wedding Plans

            by Alex Beetham on August 15, 2014

            Todays post brought to you from the desk of Vicky Lam. Take it away!

            The summer months of July and August are high season for weddings.  As I’ve already spent a couple weekends this summer as a wedding guest, I started to reminisce about a shoot I did for AstraZeneca pharmaceuticals earlier this year.  Dare I say, this is by far the cutest photo shoot I’ve done to date.  I was really excited when John St. contacted me to partake in this fun idea.  I loved the concept and the idea of making an unexpected pharmaceutical ad.  This is the kind of wedding photography that is up my alley!

            So what is “Vimovo” you might ask?  Vimovo is the latest osteoarthritis drug that offers pain relief and also protection from stomach ulcers.  To illustrate the union of these two elements, we were in search of some unique cake toppers.


            After seeing their layout I knew this wasn’t something I could easily find, and knew that only model maker, Franc Madden would be perfect for this job. I get so excited when models are made for photo shoots and love seeing the process of a vision coming to life. Here are some in-progress shots of our little couple as they were carefully hand crafted for our special shoot day.

            BTS Comp_1

            Getting cake toppers made was the first step, but it soon started to feel like we really were planning a wedding party. We tracked down some drapery and an oversized cake, and we were set to go!

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            And after some finishing touches on set, the two were styled and camera-ready for this:


            Here’s a closer look at the happy couple:


            Many thanks to the great folks at John St for having me work on such a fun and sweet concept! And many thanks to the talented Franc Madden for all of his meticulous work on bringing our characters to life.

            Client: AstraZeneca, Vimovo
            Agency: John St.
            Associate Creative Director: Stephanie Ferrari
            Agency Producer: Alisa Pellizzari
            Model Maker: Franc Madden
            Photography Producer: Phaedra Kennedy
            Photography Assistant: Rebecca Leach
            Studio Intern: Dan Berger

            Let’s end this week off with a sweet portrait of the two and a glimpse of their first dance:

            BTS DanceAll Images © Vicky Lam


              Vicky Kicks off the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition

              by Alex Beetham on July 4, 2014

              In honour of the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition (TOAE) starting up today, I have the privilege of turning you over to Vicky Lam who was recruited to bring this years ad to life… only to then melt into a puddle. I’ll let her explain.  - Alex

              Every summer, Nathan Phillips Square plays host to the largest and longest running outdoor art fair in Toronto since 1961.   The Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition is a sure sign that summer is well under way and is a great chance to see hundreds of local artists at an iconic Toronto landmark.  This year, art director and graphic designer, Una Lee, contacted me to help bring her vision to life.

              Vicky Lam_TOAE_Layout1

              I was excited to work on a local project that would help give exposure to hundreds of talented artists.  However, the challenge was apparent – how could we make our shot look like a blistering hot summer day with melting ice cream? And ice cream letters to boot?   The reality was that it was only the beginning of February in what seemed like the longest and coldest winter Toronto has had in years.  So, I enlisted the expertise of stylist, Christina Yan.  Christina and I have worked on a couple of typography projects before as well as a couple of shoots involving ice cream.  It only seemed fitting that we collaborate once again when the two ideas finally collided in one shoot.  After much deliberation and preperation, we worked with fake ice cream, as well as real ice cream components to get the look for a still image and also animated .gif.  With the help of dry ice, a large chest freezer, letter stencils, lots of ice cream, and a family value pack of Crisco, we embarked into this new territory together.

              Vicky Lam_TOAE_Layout2

              From there, we ended up with this:

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              And here’s a close-up of the great textures Christina created:

              Vicky Lam_detail01_TOAE

              The last challenge was to shoot a melting animated .gif.  Shooting an animated time-lapse meant there was no room for error and no turning back.  We had to use real ice cream to make it happen. We weren’t completely sure just how typographic ice cream shapes would look as they melted, but here it is:

              Vicky Lam_TOAE_Timelapse-03-July

              After two days of careful preparation and styling, we ended our shoot with a giant puddle of melted ice cream on the studio floor:

              Vicky Lam_TOAE_MG_9405

              Many thanks to Una Lee for having us on board for such a fun idea, and to Christina Yan for figuring out how to make the impossible happen!  Be sure to check out the TOAE this weekend and support local artists.  Enjoy the summer sun while you’re at it, and maybe grab an ice cream too.


              Photographer:  Vicky Lam
              Client:  TOAE
              AD: Una Lee
              Stylist: Christina Yan
              Assistants: Michelle Brussolo, Brendan Klem

              All Images © Vicky Lam

              **Editors Note** We (I) deeply regret the loss of perfectly good ice cream used for this shoot.  If you wish to contribute to the memorial, in lieu of cash we (I) would ask that you send pints of Haagen Dazs or Ben & Jerry’s to 70 Ward Street, C/O Alex.  We (I) thank you for your support at this difficult time.  




                by Matt on April 17, 2014

                Vicky Lam is taking over the Blog to share her latest cover story – take it away Ms. Lam!

                © Vicky Lam

                With all the frosty weather we’ve been getting across Canada these days, it’s hard to believe that Spring actually started over a month ago. Nonetheless, be prepared to look sharp for when the time comes for picking up the latest Spring Style issue of Precedent Magazine.

                It’s no secret that I have an affinity for shoes of all kinds. So it was even more exciting when I found out that not only I’d shoot the cover, but the cover story featured local shoemaker, Peter Feeney. As much as I like shoes, this was the first chance for me to get a glimpse into what exactly goes into the making of a pair of shoes.

                We’ve all heard of bespoke suits before, but how often do we think of bespoke shoes these days? A cordwainer, (aka a shoemaker) is hard to come across nowadays. The process of getting tailored shoes made sounds like a luxury and a unique craft that seems extinct in today’s mass produced fashion industry – which makes it even more inspiring to hear Peter’s story.

                I’ll tell you more while you get a look behind the scenes as we laid out just some of the tools and materials Peter uses on a day to day basis.

                © Vicky Lam

                Peter left his job in advertising and home in Toronto and ventured to Florence, Italy, where he apprenticed for four years to learn the art and craft of shoemaking from the real masters (and also learned to speak Italian!).

                Fear alone would deter many of us to stray away from following such a unique passion and dream, but Peter persevered and brought back what he learned to become one of the very few, unique cordwainers in Toronto.

                © Vicky Lam

                It was a pleasure for me to meet someone that is so passionate about their art, and also to learn more about the process that goes behind the construction and design of one pair of shoes. Peter is a one man team, but when I saw all the materials and tools he had in his studio to make just one pair, I was blown away. The amount of detailing that goes into each shoe is impressive, and consequently takes at least 40 hours if not more to construct. Befittingly so as each pair is a unique testimony of Peter’s craftsmanship and representative of his clients’ personalities.

                © Vicky Lam

                And here’s a closer glimpse of the final image we ended up with. You’ll notice “the last” in the middle there – that’s terminology for the custom-moulded model which a cordwainer uses to form a pair of shoes. This time, we used Ted’s lasts because his feet appeared slender, proportionate and seemed to be average sized.

                © Vicky LamPhotographer: Vicky Lam
                Client: Precedent Magazine
                Associate Editor: Braden Alexander
                Art Direction: Gilbert Li & Isabel Foo from The Office of Gilbert Li
                All shoes, Tools & Materials Courtesy of Peter Feeney
                Assistant: Rebecca Leach

                To get a closer glimpse into Peter’s story check out Precedent’s article here. And to see just some of the possibilities Peter offers for a bespoke pair of shoes, check out his site.

                © Vicky Lam

                Many thanks to Precedent and The Office of Gilbert Li for having me take part in such a fun, eye-opening and inspiring project! And also for including me on the contributor’s list :D .

                © Vicky Lam

                Have a great Easter weekend everyone! ~ Vicky

                All Images © Vicky Lam


                  IN PRINT | VICKY’S GREEN DAY

                  by Matt on March 17, 2014

                  In honour of St Patty’s day, Vicky Lam has decided to reflect upon one of her most memorable, and green projects of last year. Here’s Vicky to tell you more.

                  It isn’t often that I have the opportunity to work on life-sized sets, but this one project had me really excited just by the sound of it. I love working with colour and have always wanted to shoot physical typography, and this shoot had it all. When the folks at DDB Toronto contacted me about this idea, I was giddy inside, because I could finally work on a monochromatic set! I love the subtle play in tonalities and it reminded me so much of the days in art class when I had to do painted colour studies. It was finally the moment to use those skills and bring them to life in a photograph.

                  © Vicky LamPhotographer: Vicky Lam
                  Client: Manulife Financial
                  Agency: DDB
                  Creative Directors: Paul Riss & Rob Sturch
                  Art Director: Loretta Lau
                  Copywriter: Jordana Rapuch
                  Photography Producer(s): Kirsten Nichols & Phaedra Kennedy
                  Prop Stylist: Christina Yan
                  Prop Styling Assistant: Carmen Cheung
                  Prop Painting: Rob LaFrance
                  Typography Builder (that’s right, these were built too!): Jamie Oxenham
                  Retouching: Robyn Nowoczin
                  Assistants: Mike Smith & Alex Beetham

                  For a large set like this, I enlisted the help of a super team to make it all happen. Prop stylist, Christina Yan, found all of of our office supplies and furniture set, and then passed them along to prop maker, Rob LaFrance to paint them the infamous Manulife green. It was amazing to see all the items in person, and a bit surreal to see already green plants painted greener.

                  Seeing all the items in one tone was surreal, but also reminded me a bit of American fine art photographer, Sandy Skoglund and her elaborate, coloured sets. It was really neat to be able to channel some inspiration from her body of work. Working on this one set also made me really appreciate Sandy’s work even more (see some below), as it took a real team and planning to bring all the details together.

                  © Sandy Skoglund

                  Here’s a glimpse into our shoot day and a closer look at the physical letters, prop maker Jamie Oxenham made for us. But first, did I mention we shot this en français as well?

                  © Vicky Lam

                  © Vicky Lam

                  © Vicky Lam

                  © Vicky Lam

                  © Vicky Lam

                  Many thanks to DDB for having me shoot such a fun project and of course, all the great folks to make this all happen! ~ Vicky

                  © Vicky LamImages © Vicky Lam
                  Single © Sandy Skoglund


                    IN PRINT | PANCAKES FOR EVERYONE!

                    by Matt on January 23, 2014

                    In the few years I’ve been living in Toronto, I’ve come to realize that this city has a real affinity to dining out. The options are bountiful, and if you’ve spent any time on College St. over the last 10 years, you know they come and go in a flash. The number of restaurants in the downtown core alone is actually quite staggering, and if you’re not an adventurous diner, it can be difficult to know where to start.

                    Providing a solution to this predicament, is the Toronto Life Eating & Drinking Guide, a collection of the year’s best in all things food and beverage. Featuring reviews from over 1000 restaurants, bars and more – the annual has become a definitive advisor to many looking to navigate Toronto’s food scene. This year’s cover can be found all over the city – as selected businesses are given a window decal to proudly showcase their achievement – and it was captured by our girl Vicky Lam!

                    Here she is to tell ya more.

                    I’m always curious about finding good eats around the city, so it was a great pleasure to be asked to photograph the cover of this year’s Eating & Drinking Guide for Toronto Life. Director of Photography, Daniel Neuhaus, enlisted the help of Food Stylist Linsey Bell to help us create a wondrous pile of pancakes.

                    © Vicky Lam

                    The day started off when the folks from Barque dropped by with some of their duck and blueberry pancakes. I have a soft spot for pancakes as they always remind me of the annual Stampede breakfasts back home in Calgary. However, much to my dismay, we didn’t get to eat a single pancake the entire day. Instead, we sorted through all of them, sacrificed a few, and narrowed it down to only the best looking ones worthy of a cover shot.

                    © Vicky Lam © Vicky Lam

                    It took a few tries, and lots of maple syrup to get it right, but we remained focused and prevailed. Here’s our final shot, along with a close up so you can check out that glorious detail!

                    © Vicky LamPhotographer: Vicky Lam
                    Client: Toronto Life
                    Director of Photography: Daniel Neuhaus
                    Food stylist: Linsey Bell
                    Pancakes: Barque
                    Assistant: Alex Beetham

                    © Vicky Lam

                    We went through a lot of pancakes by the end of the day, but it was definitely worthwhile.

                    © Vicky Lam

                    © Vicky Lam

                    The Eating & Drinking Guide is on newsstands now and available straight through ’till June. Pick up a copy and find out what the best of Toronto has to offer to meet all of your dining and drinking needs.

                    Special thanks again to Toronto Life for having me shoot yet another delectable cover!

                    And last but not least, here’s a shot that didn’t quite make the cut. However, it does make me wonder; you can never have too much syrup right? ~VL

                    © Vicky Lam

                    Couple of big high fives to Vicky for sharing the sweetness of the day – and to pancakes for being delicious.
                    All Images © Vicky Lam