P.S. He’s a model scout and agent too.Â Naturally, this led to a very interesting discussion aboutÂ the international recruiting scene, and I also managed to sneak in a little gossip on his thoughts on the modelling and photography scene here in Singapore.
If youâve never shot with @riversandtwilight, it isnât immediately obvious that the face behind one of Singaporeâs youngest and perhaps most international photographers, is 20 year old Ryan. It could be lack of visibility and his unique brand of editing that reminds you of a sunshine- drenched road trip you once dreamed of while scrolling through Tumblr, that makes his story even more interesting than it already is.
It was only a year ago, as an usher at Singapore Fashion Week that he chanced upon his break; something that creatives here on our island will know as so scarce that it is almost mythical. In creative fields in Singapore, you either make your own opportunities happen or you can wait around for a blessing. Letâs say in this case, the blessing came in the form of a director of model bookers from one of the hugest global model agencies (clue, at the time of writing they represent Anja Rubik and Bambi Northwood- Blyth), handing over his camera to Ryan to shoot a runway show for him. Next, he was flown to New York to test shoot new faces, which led to one work trip to after the other, across the globe. And his favourite place so far? Sydney.
A: What are the best places to scout?
R: Shopping malls, pit- stops and Instagram.
A: Pit stops? Like where truckers go?
R: NO like the places you stop off at on highways.
A: So petrol stations.
R: No, youâre making it sound weird.
A:Â How does a girl’s Instagram affect her chances of booking a job?
R: Iâve actually heard of some agencies that shortlist models via their IG profiles, they donât even need to have an open call. And the models arenât allowed to post anything they want, some images have to be approved first. In Australia and New York, they also cannot simply change their IG name to anything they want because itâs printed on their com card.
A: What are the three most important things to you, aside from the basic height and weight requirement?
R: Thigh gaps are a necessity so I wonât even say thatâs a personal preference. Jawlines and eyes. Eyes can attract by themselves.
If youâre a part of his growing Instagram following, youâll realize that itâs not just skills in photography that gives him an edge but an eye for trends in faces. With sharp cheekbones and doe eyes being a common feature across the models on his feed, itâs also their personality that shines through the pictures. Heâs signed on to be an agent at one of the largest modelling agencies in the world, where he will be based in New York next year.
On becoming a model agent.
A: What is your opinion on models like Gigi Hadid and Lara Stone? Do you think the trend is heading in the direction of girls with boobs and abs?
R: I think there will always be girls like that as a one off, every now and then. Paris is still very weight biased. In Milan and New York Iâve seen girls there that weigh 54kg, they are more open to different girls. In Paris those 54kg girls would have to weigh 49kg.
A: But compared to like eight years ago, I donât see girls who are as underweight on the runway as much.
R: The girls arenât allowed to be underweight, they have to eat even before shows.
A: A friend of mine told me that she knew a girl that was buying this special bag with the hope of being shot for PFW street style, and my friend told her âdarling, it doesnât matter what youâre wearing, Paris doesnât shoot fat people.â
R: Of course they wonât.
A: So what do you want to accomplish as a booker next year?
R: Get the models jobs, bring money into the agency- but I think itâs really important that models have a good standard of living. I donât mean that it has to be luxury but better than just the basics. You canât give them a fridge and kettle that doesnât work properly. If you see some model apartments, youâd rather live in a slum.
A: Are you talking about NY or Europe?
R: There arenât many model apartments in the big cities because itâs too expensive.
A: Where do foreign models live, or new faces that havenât booked a job yet?
R: Airbnb, they have to find their own place or they sleep on friendsâ couches. One thing I really hate is the glamourisation of the modelling industry.
A: Is it true that they arenât paid to walk in fashion week?
R: Of course theyâre not paid; they wait around for so long and walk a few minutes. At the end even if they do get a little, itâs nothing. And it looks good on their portfolio, if they walk in a major fashion week and come to Singapore, they will impress [and be booked for a job].
On modelling in Singapore
A: Do you have any success stories of new models doing well in Singapore?
R: Personally, I havenât met any who made a lot of money but I heard about this 15-year-old Russian girl, completely fresh, who couldnât speak a word of English. She left after two months with $10,000 SGD and went straight to New York. I only heard about this okay, I havenât met her- I just know her agent.
A: Do you think that the localsÂ here are closed off to the idea of modelling as a career?
R: Yes, the girls in Singapore see it as a short- term way of earning cheap and easy money. Easy compared to working for hours at Starbucks or something.
A: Does that mean youâve had any negative experiences shooting with âInstagram/ blogshop modelsâ from Singapore?
R: Not on jobs but test shoots yes, sometimes they donât even show up. I just learnt that these established âblogshopsâ are actually considered âonline fashion boutiquesâ and they are moving away from this type of model, they just give sponsorship (of apparel etc.) to them. If they have the budget, they tend to go with agency models.
A: You must have quite a lot of girls asking if youâd shoot them.
R: Yes but if youâre in Singapore and if I really want to shoot you I will email you. No need to DM me.
On his photography
A: Who influences your style as a photographer?
R: @emanueleferarri and @juliatrotti, but Iâve only met Emanuele- that was when I was in Milan, when I was 19.
A: What do you thinkÂ of the style of shooting and editing [desaturation, streets, traffic, moving lights]Â that is trending in Singapore?
R: In Singapore, you only have skyscrapers. Thatâs what you have to work with. In Australia you have beach, woods, city, ocean. You canât desaturate the sky of a landscape until itâs black. It wouldnât work.
Ryan Seah @riversandtwilight
Models @iszidoradukic @liliyakotsur @_bellamarie_