Todd Anthony Tyler has been photographing since he was young. Photography has been something that he was always interested in and enjoyed as a keen amateur. When he made the full realization that photography was really the career he wanted to peruse, he did pause for a moment to consider if he was going to go to school for it or not. Instead of school, he decided to put all of his money into photography books and equipment and teach himself the finer details and technical aspects.
Todd was very disciplined and focused and treated the move into being a professional photographer as if he was going to school, and started reading and taking notes each morning by 8:30 a.m., and then dedicated the afternoons to going out and practicing what he was learning. This was during the time of shooting with film, so unlike now, where you may click and then take a look at the screen on the back of your camera, he would also be making daily runs to the lab to be dropping film off to be processed and picking up contact sheets and slides. He has fond memories of this time, along with remembering how much it cost to buy film and have it processed.
As a keen amateur, Todd would enter into photo contests and had a few satisfying wins. Photography was just a hobby then, and at the time he was primarily shooting nature and landscape images. As professional model, he did play around with taking some model friends photos for fun but didn’t start to shoot fashion professionally until he began to shoot for a couple of Singapore magazines. He developed a bit of a fashion portfolio from testing models he knew. When he was in Bangkok, those images were the ones Todd showed to secure his first paying job for the magazines. Todd went on to shoot for one of the magazines for a couple of years. Todd had his own section in the middle of the magazine called “street shots”, which was not actually sartorial shots from the street, but rather montage fashion stories that he developed and produced. His work was well received by the readers.
Photography is important to Todd because the images he produces are essentially extensions of himself. He feels his images are his ‘conceptual children’. It seems too cliche to say something about your passion for photography but Todd simply possesses an incredible passion for photography and an undying desire to produce images which tell why he became a professional photographer in the first place. Todd believes the medium of photography has a huge impact on society through all the forms of photography that we are exposed to on a daily basis – be it journalistic, news reporting, travel, nature, landscape, wedding or fashion and advertisement. Todd says, “It is a satisfying aspect of the job to be one of the people involved in shaping this influence and experience.”
There were no direct influences on Todd that made him become a photographer. He was actually generally discouraged to be a professional photographer as the general perspective on it is that it is not a very lucrative or sustainable career. Being a professional photographer is often equated to being a starving artist. Todd admitted there were some tough times at the start of his career where he really needed to make things work with the finances he had or was offered. It was shear will and the overwhelming desire to create and produce quality images that drove Todd towards success as a fashion photographer.
For influences in his work, Todd draws upon various art forms like painting, sculpture and dance. More direct influences may come from the style or look one might find in European fashion magazines. Working primarily in Asia means that Todd’s images often need to be tempered with the sensitivities or accepted norms in Asia and Asian media.
Todd is a little hard-pressed when asked to name a few photographers that he admires. Photographer’s work that he appreciates include Steven Meisel, Terry Richardson, David LaChapelle and Helmet Newton. He also likes the spontaneity often found in Bruce Weber’s work.
The description of a good fashion photographer can certainly be a subjective one since there are many different needs within the single genre of photography. For some clients, a good fashion photographer is someone who is technically sound and produces sharp, detailed images that show their product. While for other clients their needs fall more into what the photographer brings to the shoot in terms of their individuality, and perhaps their unique perspective and point of view. The question really needs to be broken down into considering if you are going to speak from a commercial perspective or an artistic and creative one. In general, a good fashion photographer needs to posses a combination of a good eye for composition, be able to “see” the light, have at least some creative instinct as well as be a good communicator. Todd believes that what makes a good fashion photographer successful is not only their talent, but a good business sense and practice.
Todd enjoys photographing fashion editorial images the most. If he could just shoot creative fashion editorials everyday, he would be very happy with that! In his work, Todd likes to explore a lot, to try different looks, styles and lighting. At the core of his work is his personal preference for slightly dark, moody images that have a bit of a raw edge and some sexual energy.
Fashion editorials are a real opportunity for Todd to blend his skills as a story teller with his ability to creatively direct and capitalize on his technical knowledge for breaking a few rules and creating something interesting. He takes a lot of pleasure from the process of weaving together all the elements of style, look of the model, make-up and hair, with movement and facial expression to produce a picture story.
Todd ended up in Asia from a combination of his desire to travel and explore the planet, and from his time as a model. In the final years of working as a professional model Todd was spending more time in Asia to put away some money in preparation for moving onto the next stage of his life. It was at this time that he was actively contemplating what exactly that next stage would be.
He was on a beach in Thailand when he had the full realization that above all else his true desire that had been masking itself as his hobby, was to photograph. So being in Asia for work, and having the epiphany of truly wanting to be a photographer, somewhat naturally had him begin his photography career in Asia.
Todd started shooting what he calls more National Geographic style images. Asia and all its culture and natural beauty was the perfect place for this. He has always felt very at home in Asia. As much as he loved his country and always felt well-suited to a European lifestyle, Asia has a very natural ease for Todd. He never felt like he was really so different or, despite his physical appearance, an outsider. Asia just felt like the place he belonged.
How Todd came to be based out of Shanghai was the result of his feeling that a fashion photographer needs to be based out of New York, Paris, London or maybe Tokyo. At the time he was on the way to make a move to one of these fashion centers, a friend, who was the first to open up a full-fledged model agency in Shanghai, invited Todd to come and check it out. That was over 10 years ago. China is a different place now, but Todd really felt the future in Shanghai and the overwhelming potential of the market. There was then, and remains today, a nearly tangible energy in the air. “The excitement that persists on what there is to come really lends to my work.” Despite the global financial situation, Todd has realized that it was economically sound for him to establish himself in Asia.
Among the top models that Todd has photographed, most notably would be Liu Wen, Fei Fei Sun and Kiky Kang. He has also worked with Masson Ge, Ria Bolivar (Phillipines), and Paula Verhoeven (Indonesia). Among Asian celebrities would be the more well known Wang Lee Hom, Paula Taylor from Thailand and, of course sitting beside him during each elimination round on Asia’s Next Top Model, Nadya Hutagalung .
When preparing for a shoot, Todd will hold, or at least attend, the casting for whatever shoot he is about to do, giving him a good idea about the model’s character and persona. “To get the best from the model you need to understand various characters as well as people’s needs – as in how you speak to them, what words you use to encourage or direct, and also understanding that most models will work through waves during the shoot; from being up and giving a lot to shoot, to being a little slow and perhaps weaker on movement and expression. So it is important to anticipate a rise in their mood and energy levels and time your shooting to get great shots.”
A lot of photographers make the mistake of dehumanizing the model and almost thinking of them as a machine. This might work for a basic look book shooting where you don’t need a lot of interacting, action and expression; but for a great fashion catalog with a strong theme or an excellent fashion editorial, Todd will work with his model on bringing everything together to create the best conditions for achieving a solid image.
Health and fitness has been a lifelong practice for Todd. He was into sports from a young age, which lead to healthy nutritional practices to support his sporting activities – which included running fast, jumping high and hitting hard. Of course, being in good shape lent well to a career in modeling as being able to do body work expands the field of castings one can attend.
Todd is often inspired by nature itself in shape, form and movement. He also finds inspiration in everyday life and people- watching, observing people’s mannerisms, expressions and actions. From the art world he is inspired by several forms of art – painting, sculpture, design, dance and music -both in conventional forms and contemporary.
A few of the specifics that Todd likes about being in Asia are that the people tend to be kind and non-confrontational. On average the people Todd works with in Asia he feels have good hearts and a kind of innocence that is nice. Plus, they are genuinely friendly. There certainly can be some cultural differences that Todd needs to understand and adapt to to live and work in Asia. There are also a number of things from western development and lifestyle that he misses on occasion, but currently he feels there is no better place to be than Asia on a whole.
Todd can speak some Chinese, Japanese, Thai and is currently learning some Filipino and Bahasa from his fans on twitter. He believes it is simply respectful to learn some of the language, and in learning the language you can also better understand the local thinking and culture. “However, no matter how well you learn the language it is not easy to be fully emerged and accepted in any Asian community… it takes time.”