Never Stop Creating: 'Pump It’ - Frank Thai aka @lord.pump Photography
December has come around again, and with it being the time to reflect; look back, and return the favor for what we all have done over the past year, I thought we’d do the same here. Specifically: we give back to those who have supported us, or those we support - which order is it?
If there is anything the past year has taught us, it's definitely that there is no shortage of opportunities to be a content creator. Full-time, part-time, or maybe just as a hobby to take your mind off things, there is no better time than now frankly, to carve out an identity as a content creator in whatever interests you.
Think about it: how many YouTubers have appeared on your feed (thanks algorithm at 3 AM) exploring areas you never thought it was possible to create content about? Like lock-picking, pilot stories, medieval cooking, Scotty Kilmer; these are just a few that have found their way to my YouTube lists.
I know this myself. Asher knows this himself. And I bet Davis does too. After all, how else did we - or specifically did I get here?
I am always one to give back to the greater community, so with that, is the start of yet another month-long, back-to-back series. Just like what I did over the summer with ‘Otaku Month’. Except for this December - and part of January 2022, we’re going to give the spotlight to some of our fellow automotive content creators! We can’t forget one of our aims here at HiddenPalmTree is to ‘Support Da Locals’ - no matter where they may be.
So as a way to give thanks for what we’ve been up to for this past year, we’ll be using our platform as an opportunity for you to learn about various photographers, videographers, streamers, vloggers, artists, and bloggers I’ve had the fortune to meet or know throughout my various dealings abroad and online - even long before I started writing on this blog. In other words, a firm reminder to fellow content creators - new and old, to 'Never Stop Creating'.
So let’s get started shall we?
And there is no one better to kick off our celebration of fellow automotive content creators than with Frank Thai; also known as @lord.pump or 'Lord Pump Photography' based out in Philadelphia, P.A.
If you don’t know him in person, chances are you’ve encountered him online. If you’re on Subtle Asian Cars like me, you know him as one of the group admins. Some might know him for his ‘Umaru-Chan’ Miata build. Others: gun stuff and ‘hot’ memes. He's also the founder of apparel brands Daijoubu Company and Dedncide, dabbling in graphic design and selling cool merch to fellow car enthusiasts and weebs.
(He also streams every now and then on Twitch)
But one area Frank is known for in particular is automotive photography, and if you have been following him these past few months, he’s recently gone full-time with this gig.
As with most content creators, Frank initially started photography as a way to document his hobbies. “When I wasn’t wrenching, I was always posting car content. I had a natural affinity for tech, so I was always taking photos, recording videos and whatnot throughout the rest of my early 20’s.”
That all took a turn around 2019 for Frank, as he started to treat something he did for fun a bit more seriously. “I took photography and content creation seriously, primarily posting on Instagram and being ecstatic over 5 likes. My photography really took a sharp turn when I started dumping more money into gear and spent more time in Lightroom.”
The extra effort to improve the quality of his content and his skills paid off, notably during this past year. "A big highlight for me this year was being able to shoot for both Wicked Big Meet and Boxerfest: two of the biggest Subaru shows on the East Coast. These were my first paid gigs and it really gave me the push to make photography a full time career.”
“In addition, during this Thanksgiving, I drove about an hour and a half into Times Square, New York City for a paid gig. I was kind of reluctant to go because one, it was at 2AM, and two, I didn’t want to be stuck in traffic at 4 in the morning. I’m definitely glad I went though, those shots were probably a highlight in my very short career and ones that really put me on the radar.
"I’m a huge fan of Need For Speed Heat; the game’s aesthetics are everything I love about cars. I’m really grateful for this opportunity because self-doubt is one of my biggest weaknesses and I’m just thankful someone out there enjoyed my work enough to drive 4 hours from Boston JUST for my photos."
"...someone out there enjoyed my work enough to drive 4 hours from Boston JUST for my photos."
But one highlight Frank holds in high regard is a fairly recent project; one that you might have caught wind of and even participated in! And it all started with a random Photoshop edit he did for fun.
“I photoshopped one of my old photos to turn a Korean BBQ restaurant into a 7-Eleven and it actually made it on The Drive, a big automotive news outlet. I didn’t know what to expect, but I did as much promotion as I could to let people know I was doing paid shoots (this was right after I quit my full time job to pursue photography) and I froze my ass off for $200 (USD)! I ended up hosting a car meet and photo session in my area as part of a nationwide 7-Eleven movement encouraged by the corporate social media pages (TikTok/Instagram) - leading to everyone taking photos of their cars in front of their local 7-Elevens on November 5th, 2021”
“The best part was one of my photos actually got re-shared by the official [corporate] 7-Eleven Instagram page. This shoot/meet really gave me the most exposure this year and I’m definitely glad I took the initiative to do it.”
"This shoot/meet really gave me the most exposure this year and I’m definitely glad I took the initiative to do it."
Seeing the doors open for Frank as he put work into the craft took him by surprise. “I’m actually quite surprised at how many doors have opened up once people knew about my work. I’ve been invited to shoot behind closed doors for SEMA builds, entered big car shows for free, and made tons of friends along the way.”
“Honestly, just holding my big bulky camera is enough to get me into places nowadays.”
Us being an automotive culture blog, we have to obviously ask what does the creator drive. It should be evident that the orange Mazda roadster with an Umaru itasha is Frank's pride and joy: “It’s a 1990 Mazda MX-5 that I adopted after it spent the last 4 years of its life sitting outside. It wasn’t running, but it came with a hardtop and most of the panels were straight.”
“After a few parts and pieces, it started right up after sitting for so long, a testament to Mazda engineering; they knew these cars were going to spend most of its life hibernating. After making sure everything mechanical was good, I worked on the suspension and body. Now it has a life of its own!”
It isn’t just all imports Frank spends behind the wheel. “I also have a daily that was meant to serve as my daily, then it became a project car, then undriveable and then became super comfortable: my 2011 Audi A4 2.0T Manual.”
Ironically, the daily that was meant to simplify Frank’s life has been a bit of a love/hate relationship. “I’m disappointed the aftermarket and following didn’t take off [for the platform], but I love how comfortable it is at speed. Going 80mph in the Miata is a completely different world than going 80mph in the Audi.”
"..was meant to serve as my daily, then it became a project car, then undriveable and then became super comfortable."
As for where Frank is aiming to take his brand and content to the next level, he’s still busy as ever behind the scenes to work with what's available within his home state; along with looking for opportunities to shoot in neighboring New Jersey and New York.
“I’m trying to grow my Instagram, get my portfolio up, get more paid gigs and fingers crossed, sustainable income from my camera.”
“While I don’t have the luxury of living in a big city and walking to my next shoot, I’m fortunate enough to not have high living expenses. I can always pick up a part-time job to make ends meet, but I’ve already waited so long to be independent that I can’t just give up without exhausting all my options.”
As for aspiring automotive content creators; whether they might be getting their start or thinking about taking initiative to start at all, Frank emphasizes one thing above all else as advice to anyone starting out:
"Ask. Ask. Ask. Ask questions..."
“Ask. Ask. Ask. Ask questions, lots of them. Don’t waste time like me and try to learn everything at once. There are thousands of people out there who are eager to help you. Every time someone asks me how I did this or what I used for that, it ignites my passion and makes me want to go back out there and do more. Nowadays, you can learn any skill on YouTube and have an amazing camera in your pocket at any given moment. Just absorb information, digest it and then make your own.”
“And don’t forget to have fun!”
Bonus: '7-Eleven is the Spot..'