Zane Lacko is not only an amazing photographer but also a true car enthusiast. He is a proud member of the West Virginia car scene and does a fantastic job of capturing its essence in his photography. As a petrolhead himself he takes pictures that a petrolhead would want to see. I am regularly impressed by his use of aggressive angles and his willingness to be experimental with backgrounds and locations.
After a short time browsing his Instagram page I found myself both inspired and excited to find out more. I reached out to Zane and he kindly agreed to take part in this interview. Enjoy!
How long have you been a fan of cars?
I can remember an obsession with cars from an early age, probably dating back to the time I was first learning to read. I liked Richard Scarry books that featured whimsical vehicles of all sorts, and that was fully complemented by a large collection of Matchbox cars. From there, an obsession with air-cooled Volkswagens blossomed through adolescence, then I moved to the Subaru realm in my twenties. Each time in life it’s been taking bigger and bigger steps in immersing myself in car culture in general.
How did you first get into car photography?
It started in June of 2017. Earlier that year, after making a resolution to myself to explore photography again (after taking 35mm film photography in high school), I bought my Mini with full intentions of lowering it and building something unique. The car had maybe 3000 miles on it before the angle grinder came out and it was lowered on a completely one-off suspension that my friend helped fabricate. This project came to completion, and suddenly I had a tool at my disposal to capture it and share it with the world in “look what I did” kind of moments. From there it just grew and grew.
Your Instagram page showcases atmospheric car scenes, landscape shots and detail shots. Do you feel it is important to be versatile as photographer?
Yes and no. I think all good photographers are versatile and could produce great photos no matter the subject. However, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. With working in social media, I know Instagram accounts that are popular and successful offer a consistent aesthetic, in-depth personality and specialized content. Mine isn’t that — I tend to lead with my heart. My sense of place is strong, and I’m fiercely a West Virginian. And, although my content trends more towards cars and the shows, I can’t help but share moments and places that are important to me, particularly because most times, if you aim the camera away from the car, you’re able to see the beauty in what’s surrounding you. They’re strange allegorical moments in a certain sense.
I can see that you enjoy the process of honing your craft. What is it that inspires you to keep trying new things, learning and improving your photography?
I think it’s natural to want to improve and evolve. Staying stagnant and doing the same thing time and time again is boring. Often times, I’m inspired by a mix of aesthetics from the Instagram community at large. I’ll see something from a landscape photographer and think to myself, “that would be rad if there was a car in the shot.” I’ll see something from a portrait photographer and think about how they use light and post editing, then try to apply it. Imitation never goes 100 percent as planned, but it shouldn’t. However, in the process, there’s another evolution and tool in the toolbox to use in a certain situation.
You stay active within the car scene, attending meets and engaging with the car community. Tell me about some of your favourite meets and why the community is important to you?
The community is wonderful. I think cars are natural conversation starters that allow someone to drop their walls and connect with someone on a genuine level around a common passion. I’ve met some great people through regional Volkswagen/Audi/European shows who are crazy supportive of one another. There’s a local “cars and coffee” style event that happens monthly during the summer that’s more small-scale – perhaps around 60 vehicles on any given night – and it leads to seeing a lot of different things outside my typical preferences. There’s a group out of Pittsburgh that puts on amazing, yearly shows that eclipse a few hundred cars with some magazine-worthy, high-quality builds. They all have elements I enjoy in them – so long as people are respectful of others and the property it’s usually a good time.
What made you decide to start an Instagram account dedicated to your passion?
The Instagram account was started a while ago, and just kind of grew into what it is now. Of all the social media platforms, I like Instagram the best. Not only am I more visual and have an endless pool of inspiration, but the need to have some photo to post usually weeds out discourse that I don’t want to see. I dislike Facebook for that reason, the amount of ignorance over perceived problems is out of control. I have one, but it only serves as a conduit for managing social accounts for my day job and getting information about car events that have no other online presence.
What is it like to own an F60 Mini Countryman?
I like it. I’ve always been a hatch/wagon guy. The craftsmanship and fit and finish is great, and it’s a comfortable daily for being lowered 4.5 inches. The nearest Mini dealers are at least a two-hour drive away, so there’s not many in my area. I like taking something atypical and doing something even more unique to it. And by blasting it out on social media, I’ve had wonderful conversations with people from the U.K., Germany, Russia, Japan, South America and across the United States.
What photography equipment and editing software do you like to use?
I’m a big Fujifilm guy. I’ve got an admittedly dated X-T10 body, but invested in some of Fuji’s beautiful glass, particularly the XF16 1.4 and XF56 1.2. An updated body will come shortly. For editing, I use Adobe Lightroom exclusively. Through tinkering, I’ve been able to create presets that I use in most scenarios to at least get a start in editing.
Who is your favourite photographer?
A few that provide me regular inspiration on Instagram are Simon Auslund (@auslund), Bret Curry (@bretcurry), a fellow simply known by Seigo @unbird_seigo and Jesse Proie (@proiesworld). They all have a different style. Seigo does crazy things with depth of field and bokeh. Simon has amazingly solemn shots from misty nights where the lighting is part calming, part horror film. Bret takes portraiture to another level and Jessie (who is from my area) pulls off amazingly clever images from places I’ve been, shedding a whole new light on them.
Name a few of your favourite Instagram car photography accounts?
There’s so many! I think a lot of my original inspiration came from Larry Chen (@larry_chen_foto), one of the original photographers for Speedhunters. On top of that, one of the regional guys, Andrew Sutter (@andrewshutter) did work that inspired me early within the Euro scene, and he moved to my town a couple years ago and I got to talk with him at events this summer. About a year ago, I stumbled upon John Jackson (@notstockphoto) who shoots a lot of commercial hotrod clients and is the gold standard in my mind for professional photos that hit a lot of magazines. The last one that’s been particularly inspiring is a guy who goes by @jam9k who takes a lot of crisp, single flash photos that are spectacular.
Where can our readers find out more about you and your photography?
Mainly my website, https://www.zanelacko.com/. For every client/meet I shoot, I do try to update and post in the blog section and keep it up-to-date. Also, my direct messages in Instagram are always open, and I do try to respond to all of them.
I would like to thank Zane for taking the time to speak with me. Be sure to visit his website and give him a follow on Instagram: @z_lacko