Todd Anthony Tyler, world-renowned fashion photographer – especially acclaimed in Asia – makes us discover his world, his creations and his ever-lasting energy to reinvent and make us dream. His pictures are just like his life; between art, fashion, movement, vision, and creation. Taking and giving what’s best to make it live. His amazing, atypical story would make a perfect American story; everything is possible, anywhere you want, as long as you’re fueled by hard work and passion. He works for the biggest fashion magazines, including Vogue China, Vogue Italia, Elle Chine, Harper’s Bazaar in China, Prestige Indonesia, L’Officiel and GQ. He also takes part in captivating commercial campaigns for Uma Wang, Ritz-Carlton Hotels, L’Oréal Paris, Adidas and Ports 1961.
Born in Canada, he works between New York, Shanghai and Los Angeles, but also in Europe, and in Paris. As a former model who became an artistic director, he turns his models into fashion icons. He has captured the rising stars of the Asian modeling scene such as Liu Wen, Fei Fei Sun and Kiki Kang. Todd Anthony Tyler is also a TV personality in Asia with the successful first seasons of Next Top Model and Fit for Fashion. He owns a photography studio and gives conferences on fashion and photography.
Maison Sensey : How did it all begin ?
Todd Anthony Tyler : I learned photography at a young age, I was 5 years old when my mother gave me a camera and I instantly became addicted. I sold my horse to buy a camera, which, I suppose, proved how much I wanted to do photography. I started modeling when I came back from studying in Kenya. I wanted to carry on studying and I also thought about travelling the world. Being a model meant I could earn money and have the opportunity to travel. I travelled to 25 different countries; it was an incredible experience!
I do not model anymore, but I’ve been involved for a few years already in a TV show based on the world of modeling. I found myself in front of the camera again and I love it. My experience as a model allows me to really put myself in the candidates’ shoes and know what it feels like to stay there and get photographed. The empathy I feel for the models is an important aspect of my process as a photographer because I really understand what they might feel.
What is your photographic signature ?
My signature is complete freedom, with a bit of darkness. I love shades, humor and a touch of eroticism. I tend to like images that are not too static. I spend a lot of time looking at the model and anticipating movement and expression. I think style really depends on how you get introduced to a photographer for the first time. If you first look at my commercial work, you will feel that my style is neater. Advertisement work also tends to be “clean”, but as a person, as an artist, and as a photographer, I’m rather looking for the raw side of things.
I like the atmosphere that shades can create (which does not always work in catalogues or commercials, because clients usually want a clear picture of the product). Moreover, my personal intent is to go towards a certain degree of sexual or erotic energy that I feel in the images. I really want to convey a reflection of humanity and a natural vibe, and it does not always work out well with some markets or with large audiences.
What are your artistic inspirations ?
Terry Richardson for his very raw images, David Lachapelle for his colors, Helmut Newton for the erotic nature of his work. I also like Patrick Demarchelier’ work. Nick Knight, Steven Klien, Peter Lindbergh, Steven Meisel, Richard Avedon, Bruce Weber… Regarding artists, I just open my mind and admire. I also find some inspiration among fashion creators and graphic designers.
What makes a good fashion photographer ?
To be a good photographer, you first need to have an eye for framing, composition and image capturing. Then, mix a good serving of creativity and artistic abilities. I think that to be good, you need to be devoted to essentially creating and producing art. To be a good andsuccessful photographer, you need all the previous qualities plus being able to balance them out with managing a company. In the end, if you want to make money with photography, you’re running a business, and a successful business requires commitment, good work ethics, a strong understanding of business and good money management skills.
And what about TV ?
Four years ago, I was approached to be in the Next Top Model in Asia. At the beginning, I wasn’t quite sure. Top Model ? Reality TV ? What about my credibility as a renowned fashion photographer ? I thought about it for a while and asked for advice around me, and everyone told me that media exposure creates two-way value, so I thought I might as well have some fun. I learned a lot about TV since my Top Model experience, and I carried on working in TV by taking part in a new show entitled Fit for Fashion.
Which advice would you give to a model, a photographer or any other person who would like to work in fashion ?
Those careers are all different so it’s difficult to give the same advice to all of them. On the whole, I’d first say that they shouldn’t listen to anyone who tells them that they cannot do it. Yes, it might not work out like you imagined it or like you wanted, but it might be because you discovered that it was not what you wanted. I believe that you should never not do something just because someone told you that you couldn’t do it, it would be a big mistake.
You should experience it yourself because every journey is different. However, when you’re thinking of getting into such a career, ask yourself hard questions such as “Am I really talented ?” Be honest with yourself and from there, everything is possible. Do you feel a strong desire, a roaring fire urging you to do this ? If so, do it. If your interest quickly fades, find something else.
Another piece of advice where a lot of questions arise regarding the fact that if you want to work in this trade, you need to explore the market, especially at the beginning of your career, to see everything that’s going on. Despite the internet, you cannot really reach the level of success you get in these fields if you stay out of the main markets, which means you will probably move to New York, L.A. or London to really get ahead in the career you’re looking into. My last two pieces of advice: be creative and attractive. After that, success depends on your business mind, your will as an entrepreneur, and the greatest audacity to maintain the high standards you will need to succeed.
What is the best advice you’ve been given ?
It was my mother’s, as I took part in a 200-meter race. It was my first competition and I didn’t realize that, due to the track, all the runners were speeding up during the last 100 meters. When everyone seemed to get to my level, I felt frustrated because I was starting to lose, so I slowed down. My mother shouted at me to keep running, so I picked up the pace and ran as fast as I could during the last 100 meters, and I won the race. Since then, I apply this to my everyday life.