We’ve heard of and watched America’s Next Top Model, Britain’s Next Top Model and Australia’s Next Top Model, all of which resounding brands in TV reality shows and well received globally. Now, introduce Asia’s Next Top Model. Premiering Nov 25th, Asia’sNTM has readily made itself a powerful addition to the Tyra Banks’ highly praised Next Top Model series.
SooperJerry.com is honored to have Todd Anthony Tyler with us this time. Todd is one of the judges on Asia’s Next Top Model where he rightly doubles as the resident photographer of the entire program.
Todd Anthony Tyler, a former model himself, is now a top-gun fashion photographer. He enjoys an incredibly extensive client base that straddles high-fashion industry (Elle and Vogue, etc.) and popular brands (Adidas and McDonald’s, etc.). As a result, it’s not uncommon for us to spot his masterpieces in our daily lives. In fact, he is so accomplished a fashion photographer that he gets anointed by Asia’sNTM to the most enviable, unprecedented 3-in-one position as a trusted mentor for the top model hopefuls, a distinguished judge of the high-stress modeling competition, and the resident photographer of the reality show.
I’ve always wondered what happened in front of and behind the camera every time I watched the Next Top Model series. It never ceased to amaze me whenever I saw photographers work their magic to translate plain vanilla things into eye-catching, artistic beauties by adding a godly measure of fantasy, wizardry, elegance, grace, glamour or even wildness to the commonplace. Crack photographers have played such a critical role in the fashion and modeling reality shows that, when the moment of truth came, judges would decide who stayed on and who went home based on the best shots of the week. That’s precisely the reason Todd deserves the fame of a world-class photographer: Every one of his shots not only has a story to tell, but aptly unveils his distinct style as an elite photographer. Indeed, Todd has expertly captured many a fleeting moment in one singular press of the shutter and pinned the fugitive instants down in eternality.
The model-turned-photography guru graciously granted me an interview in which he talked about the Asia’sNTM competition, touched upon the outlook for Asia’s modeling industry, and for the first time ever, offered money-can’t-buy advice for aspiring top models and serious photographers. Skip the following illuminating interview at your own peril.
SJ: What’s it like being the resident photographer and a judge in the Asia’sNTM competitions? How does the role of resident photographer help you reach decisions as a judge?
Todd Anthony Tyler: It is certainly a pleasure and outright honor to be considered an expert in one’s field. To be further recognized as an individual in a position of such authority on a subject to provide informed guidance and credible feedback to contestants is the highest form of respect and flattery as an artist and photographer could receive. I really enjoyed employing my 20 years of experience in the fashion industry both in front of and behind the camera in a unique way from what I do on a daily basis in my photography business. Being resident photographer and judge on Asia’s Next Top Model is another outlet and opportunity for me to use and share my experience. What an incredibly satisfying feeling when you are using those years of knowledge to help guide a group of young, aspiring models to reach for their dreams.
Of course there are heartbreaking moments when you need to move someone on or when one of your critiques causes someone to become upset. However, at all times throughout the show, whether it is in giving direction in a photo shoot, giving critical feedback during a panel discussion or in making a choice on who goes and who stays, I personally took the position of being straight out honest and direct. Everyone on the panel and involved in elimination discussions thought long and hard and took decision-making very serious as the contestants are vying for amazing prizes and opportunities. Being resident photographer meant that I personally did some of the shoots and then observed all the other fashion shoots. This was important for me since a critical point on whether a model succeeds or not is in their performance in front of the camera, so judging the girls in how they actually take direction, move and emote is a very important criterion.
SJ: A model-turned-photographer, do you think a model well versed in photography will perform better in front of the camera? Should models be required to receive some training in photography?
Todd Anthony Tyler: There is no doubt that one aspect of being a good, professional model is a model who is aware of how a photo shoot is produced. Having some reference in what is happening specifically with the photography is a bonus. Just as much that it is helpful for me to be in the mind of the model through my professional modeling experience, it is a pleasure for me when I work with a model who at least has a basic grasp of such things as where the main light is and how I might be using the light. Models who can hit their mark or do things like slightly raise their chin to let more light into their eyes because they recognize the direction the light is coming from makes my job more enjoyable as I can shoot and not have to spend my time training the model on how to do their job.
After you get past being tall enough and having a look that can make you marketable as a model then what really makes a model a good model is their nature and character. A good model is a person who has certain innate qualities that can be developed and trained so that they will be their best in front of the camera. Part of this training should involve some basic knowledge of photography and studio sets.
SJ: You’re known for transforming models into icons. What would your single advice be for model wannabes? And for models aspiring to be on the forefront of fashion?
Todd Anthony Tyler: Offering a single piece of advice may be a disservice as a career as a successful model is a multifaceted endeavor. Just a few quick checkpoints for aspiring models to ask themselves are – Do I truly have potential in firstly matching industry standards for height and size? Do I posses a unique, exotic, classic beauty that would catch industry insiders’ eyes considering how many models they see every day? Do I have the type of character and confidence to feel at home in front of the camera? With a yes to all of these questions in place then I would find a few solid photographers to test me so I had pro level images of myself to present to an agency and show my potential as a pro model, all the while working on your skills as a model. Look at magazines and catalogs and see what the models are doing. Get in front of the mirror and practice so that when you are up in front of the camera everything is feeling second nature to you.
SJ: Noted for great art sense and professional skill, would you give three most important tips to professional photography aspirants?
Todd Anthony Tyler: Three tips to share for those aspiring to be a pro photographer are firstly to verify for themselves that there is absolutely nothing else that they want to do as a profession, perhaps even in life itself. If they are equally as interested in another filed of work, be it creative or not, they should pursue the other option and remain a keen hobbyist as a photographer because the people you are going to be competing against would rather starve to death than not be a photographer. The competition at the pro level is intense. If you possess the overwhelming desire and stamina to truly be a pro photographer then the second tip would be to identify what genre of photography work you want to do and follow up by shooting like mad to develop a knockout portfolio. The more you shoot the better you will become; there is just no replacement for time in my opinion and the maturing that comes in your work from the growth you experience every time you shoot. The third bit of advice is to be good at doing business. Perhaps take a business course or, recognize if you are not really a businessperson, seek help in this area. Essentially, becoming a professional photographer means being self-employed and running your own business.
SJ: Do you think the Asian modeling industry still has a long way to go before it catches up with that in the West? What in particular can be done to narrow the gap?
Todd Anthony Tyler: There is no doubt in any pursuit that there is a certain refinement that comes with time. To make a direct comparison between the developing Asian model and fashion scene and those of major western markets is just not a fair comparison to be made at this point. Western markets currently benefit from decades of continual development (outside of any setbacks experienced during World War II) and establishment of quality levels and markers for industry standards of excellence. The model industry in Asia in conjunction with the fashion industry is still in an emerging stage. That is why in part it is such an exciting time to be in Asia and an honor for me to be in some way contributing to the development.
There is a lot of energy and buzz around how Asia will continue to grow in particular in the fashion and luxury business in China and India. With the international interest and global markets continuing to become more diversified in its definition of beauty comes greater opportunities for top models to be rising from Asia. Any gap in Asian models that may exist can be narrowed simply through the gaining of greater experience and an overall wider knowledge of the model and fashion business on a global level.
I think models are not groomed as well as they were in the past. No doubt to a certain extent a top model is born with a look and a talent for exuding a character in front of the camera, sometimes referred to as an X factor, but I believe the parameters of and the understanding of what it is all about to be a pro model were much more understood and established than when I was a model. I think the Asian model industry could benefit from having potential and young models properly trained and schooled in all the aspects of being a professional model. Perhaps disreputable “modeling” schools may have tarnished the training of models but I do believe aspiring models will benefit from some direction and actual practice before they are sent out as professionals. There is much more to being a good, top model than just standing around looking pretty.
1. I had a great time working with Todd on this interview project. Todd was a congenial gent and always ready to oblige me with offers to help.
2. There exists a great wealth of information on Asia’s Next Top Model as well as its judge and resident photographer Todd Anthony Tyler. Just click on any of the following links:
3. I’m pleased to announce that there will be a sequel to this exclusive interview. Part 2 of the interview with Todd will be even more enlightening and equally valuable. So don’t miss it.