Interview: A Few Words with Todd Anthony Tyler
by Daniel Haim
Todd Anthony Tyler is a photographer who is responsible for transforming models into icons, as well as producing vivid imagery that is featured in some of the most elite fashion magazines worldwide. Here, Todd gives us an insight into his journey so far, from where everything began to exactly what the future may hold for this incredible photographer, including his venture into the world of television. Todd speaks below about his dreams and inspirations, his career highlights thus far and his photographic idols, such as Steven Meisel and Helmut Newton.
Daniel: Todd, first and foremost let me thank you for your time and for sharing your thoughts and inspirations with our readers. It is a great honor to host you in our magazine.
Todd: It is truly my pleasure!
Daniel: Where did all of this begin for you?
Todd: Photography has been a lifelong interest. It all began, as childhood hobby and eventually became my profession. I modeled full-time for 10-years and never thought about pursuing a career as a photographer. If I had realized back then that this would be my path and passion, I would have paid much more attention! Making the transition from model to photographer was quite natural for me though. I now have 20+ years of experience on both sides of the camera.
Daniel: Describe to me your first “real shoot”, where you were, and what you were you doing?
Todd: My first real shoot as a pro photographer was for Catalog magazine based in Singapore. The great thing about working with Catalog was that I had a lot of creative control, from the concept to the styling, to the layout of the images. Creatively it was a very fulfilling, because I prefer to art direct my shoots.
Daniel: When you first started, what was your biggest dream? Have you accomplished it?
Todd: I have always wanted my work to be featured in Vogue Italia and I was able to do that with a shoot I did for designer Uma Wang. In terms of Chinese-based design stars, Uma is really paving the way to become the first internationally successful Chinese brand. Working with her is both an honor and pleasure.
I will be taking photos until I cannot press the shutter anymore.
Daniel: Whom do you draw your inspirations from?
Todd: I cannot say I specifically draw inspiration from one thing in particular. Early on in my career, I really admired the work of Terry Richardson. His images are so sexually charged with emotion. I also like the colors of David LaChapelle’s work and his quirky stories. In terms of fashion, the imagery of Steven Meisel, Patrick Demarchelier and Helmut Newton is legendary. I am certainly influenced by pop-culture and art. I spend a lot of time in art galleries studying different interpretations of light and movement.
Daniel: What has been your favorite shoot so far?
Todd: As a model, I would say it was the first time I shot in Paris and as a photographer, shooting on location is always the most exciting for me. I did a shoot at the Xinjiang Butcher Shop in Shanghai and that was a unique creative experience. I all so have to mention a desert shoot I did in Inner Mongolia for DestinAsian magazine, it was a challenge to get to the location. Once we setup though, I enjoyed all the running around in the desert and having such a dynamic backdrop.
Daniel: When did you know you finally made it as a professional photographer?
Todd: Establishing the Todd Anthony Tyler studio and operating an international business for the last 10 years, should qualify as ‘made it’. As a freelance photographer, you are essentially running a business, but making a living as photographer is very difficult. I consider myself lucky to have a consistent flow of work that allows me to do what I love full-time. I get to work with some of the best publications and brands like Vogue China, Elle Singapore, Harper’s Bazaar China, L’Officiel, GQ China, Indochino, Ports 1961, Nike and the list goes on, which is very rewarding.
Daniel: What is life like as a photographer in 2012? How has your career adapted to meet the changes needed?
Todd: If you go back just a decade, photography has changed dramatically. Digital shooting dominates the industry right now. I almost never shoot film or take Polaroid’s unless it’s for a bit of fun. Most of the old ways of doing things have been surpassed by technology. Photographers have gone from using analog cameras to digital. I show my images on websites and iPads and not in a book of prints anymore. And, with social media a lot of PR work and networking is done via the Internet opening up the market and making it perhaps even more competitive, but in other ways evening out the playing field. Those with true talent are able to shine as I believe every photographer has fairly equal access to getting their work seen. Digital shooting is instant. The days of waiting for processed film to come back are long gone. I am treating images in a digital lab instead of a wet lab. Definitely, the biggest changes are reflected in the technology advances.
Daniel: What’s on the horizon for you?
Todd: I will be coming to New York for Fashion Week in September. Then I am heading to Paris In November, to present some of my work in a joint photo exhibition. I write a monthly column for the Asian Photography magazine, so that keeps me busy.
Daniel: I understand you are working as a judge in a new TV show, tell us a little bit about that.
Todd: This November, I will appear as judge and resident photographer on Asia’s Next Top Model (AsiasNTM) along with host Nadya Hutagalung, fashion director Daniel Boey, model mentor Joey Mead King and runway walk coach Adam Williams. AsiasNTM is an adaptation of Tyra Banks’ original hit TV series America’s Next Top Model and this is the first time the Top Model franchise will bring together young women that encompass the rich diversity and nuances of all Pan-Asia.
Daniel: How did this project come together?
Todd: There has never been a reality modeling show that encompasses women from all of Asia. On AsiasNTM you’ll see a blending of cultures and ideals of beauty. It is almost an impossible task, but it is what makes this show so unique and interesting. For over a decade, I have operated a successful studio in Shanghai, China, becoming one of the most sought-after contemporary photographers in Asia as well as worldwide. I was selected as a judge because I have extensive experience in this market. Before stepping behind the camera, I was a successful model, thus I am equipped to mentor the Top Model hopefuls with empathy and a unique ingenuity that is also captured in my work.
Daniel: What can we expect from Todd in the upcoming years, and where do you see yourself in 5, 10 years from today?
Todd: I will be taking photos until I cannot press the shutter anymore and the rest you will have to keep up with me and see!
To learn more about Todd Anthony Tyler visit www.toddanthonytyler.com.