Exclusive Feature: Todd Anthony Tyler

BREAKING THE FRAME. Judge and resident photographer of “Asia’s Next Top Model,” Todd Anthony Tyler raps with Gabriela Yosefina on being an A-type person, Shanghai and the show’s next big move.

There is a less visited page of Todd Anthony Tyler’s life before he shot to stardom through “Asia’s Next Top Model.” He cut his showbiz teeth through modeling right after earning a bachelor’s degree in biology and anthropology. Following a decade posing in front of the camera, the well-built gentleman decidedly shifted to professional photography. As such, Tyler’s approach to fashion photography is thorough, with a full comprehension on the nature of both sides of the lens.

Now his wise poise and enamoring demeanor on screen have contributed largely to the growing number of fans across Asia. Canadian-born Tyler also regularly contributes to Asian Photography magazine, sharing his expertise in a photography column, as well as to the Philippines-based Mega Style website, in which he discusses fashion extensively.

DA MAN: Your impressive portfolio and twenty-plus years of experience being both in front of and behind the camera surely require a lot of work and efforts. How did you finally get to where you are right now?
Todd Tyler: I owe a fair amount of my success to my personality and character. Being an A-type individual who is always goal-oriented, I am determined to achieve or create something that matters. My background also attributes to this kind of attitude. I come from a fairly simple middle-class family; I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Therefore, I have to try harder if I want to make things happen. I also believe in following my heart. Because when you want to achieve something and you really believe in it, you will have that extra drive.

Outfit by Etro

DA: Have you always known that you want to be a photographer?
TT: Truth be told, in my life I have always done photography. When I was small, my mother once gave me a plastic camera. From the first time I looked through its lens, framed the view, and later put the pictures to print, I fell in love with this whole idea of the eye — how you compose, isolate, and share what you have seen with others. But that was just the beginning. It still takes years, through traveling and experiencing more, until I come to realize that photography is my calling. It is what I passionately do and, by being a professional, I will be able to do what I love every day. That makes me feel very lucky.

DA: What was your turning point from modeling to photography?
TT: I modeled because it enabled me to travel, not because I fell in love with the idea of being a model. Initially, I wanted to do it just for a year. Reality says differently, though. I ended up doing modeling for ten years! Then I decided that I wanted to have a family and a normal life. So I made that change, quitting modeling and trying several different things. I even got my scuba diving certification!

Outfit by Emporio Armani

DA: What happened then?
TT: At the start I am more drawn to journalistic photography, such as landscapes and travel. Yet, after contemplating its pluses and minuses, I ended up not doing it. Firstly, those photos have to be accompanied with writing. The financial return of such occupation can also be limiting.

It got me thinking then — from business perspective, what is the smart thing to do here? For the past ten years I have been in the industry so it’s a feasible option for me to dive in fashion (again). It wasn’t very easy at first because people didn’t take me seriously. They think I am still a model and I cannot take good photos.

My struggle added up when I was looking for style that works for me by experimenting with various kinds of photography. Another hard part also involved establishing clients. There were these different clients with small budgets coming to me. Even sometimes I was offered non-fashion photography jobs, like photographing stairs! Thankfully, after a two year period I started getting some acknowledgement and began shooting editorials.

Outfit by Hugo Boss

DA: Every photographer attempts to put their signature into their work so the end results will be distinguishable. How did you find yours?
TT: To a certain extent, I am doing that throughout my career. Some people establish their signature early on, and others are more like technicians who are keen on innovating in equipment. Meanwhile, I make adjustments and explore different techniques while maintaining a few core styles. Elements of rawness, edginess and spontaneous movements are what I consistently apply. That is what people can expect to see when my name is credited under “Photographer.” Also, I don’t like my images to be over-processed. I am drawn more to the raw beauty since I want the person to look like they have skin, not plastic.

DA: Was there a moment when you and other judges (of “Asia’s Next Top Model”) do not see eye to eye?
TT: A simple answer would be yes. But, there are of course compromises and discussions along the way. Personally, a big challenge for me in the show is adjusting my standard with other judges’ ideas of what fashion really is. So, during the conversation about who is the right model for the job, our general agreements do involve a healthy amount of subjectivity.

Outfit by Emporio Armani

DA: How could “Asia’s Next Top Model” contribute to the local culture in particular?
TT: There is a huge interest of the show globally as the international fashion scene grows a significant interest in Asian models. Nevertheless, they tend to generalize Asian models as those Chinese-looking ones without being aware that Asia is actually very rich in diversity. Thus, this gap is where I hope the show can be: a really good platform to showcase different beauty from across Asia. In addition, I also hope that in the following season, “Asia’s Next Top Model” will not only show the diversity of the girls but also the regional rising photographers and designers, as a part of the fashion-forward nature in the continent.

Outfit by Etro

DA: If you’re not working as a photographer, what would you do?
TT: Probably I would like to do more TV-related stuff, doing shows or even acting. I’d certainly want to explore various helms in the industry before I go back solely to my education background. Or, I could try doing business because I have projects involving a number of different companies already.

Photographs: Nurulita
Styling: Asti Tiara
Videographer: Dimas Anggakara

Click here for more photos and the complete interview.

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