May 04 2014
Missing multiple turns at life’s cross junction, Rebecca Toh manages to find the right path meant for her. Currently a commercial and editorial photographer, Rebecca is hugely influenced by the ability of a film to tell moving, layered stories, and works to inject this sense of the cinematic - the emotion, the life, the warmth - into the images she creates.
Based in Singapore, she is nevertheless always on the road. We're lucky to have grabbed some of her time to chat more about her life, craft and love for design, as well as her favourite things on Naiise. Read more about Rebecca here.
1) Tell us more about yourself and how you ended up becoming a photographer?
I am a self-taught freelance editorial and commercial photographer based out of Singapore. Long story short, I ended up becoming a photographer because it's the path I am meant to walk in this life (even though it took me a lot of mis-steps and mistakes in order to get here).
As for the long story... When I was about 20 I quit university (I was an English major), borrowed a sum of money from my parents and started a cafe. After shutting down the cafe, I found myself adrift. I tried working at a 9 to 5 job, but I was terrible at it; I tried becoming a freelance writer, but I failed at that as well, making barely enough money to feed myself. As a last resort, I decided to become a photographer (photography was something I had been doing for fun for many years). And then, amazingly enough, everything began to fall into place. In less than six months, I was making a good living as a photographer and shooting for some of my favourite magazines and agencies.
I still have a long way to go, but I think magic happens when you finally find and do what you're meant to do.
2) 3 Things you love and hate about your job?
Number one - The freedom. I am an Aquarius, so I love freedom and I hate being told what to do. I love that as a freelance photographer, I can work anywhere I want, travel anytime I want, and set my career in whichever course I want. For someone who craves freedom as much as I do, this is the perfect job.
Number two - The people. I love finding out about and getting to know talented and interesting people. My photography jobs throw me out into the world and allow me to meet such people on a constant basis. I love it!
Number three - I love that I am making a living doing what I would do everyday anyway, for free. If I were qualified to give advice, I'd say: Find something you love to do and are good at, and then work really hard to get people to pay you for it. You will have the ride of your life.
The only thing I don't really enjoy about my work is the fact that I am, after all, a freelancer, so circumstances are never set in stone. I might have lots of work today, but it doesn't mean I will have work in a year or two. So there's that anxiety, which is constant and always in the background, stressful and good at the same time (because it pushes you to continually get better).
3) How is design relevant to your everyday life?
I love design! I think one of my first loves was actually design, even before photography. I believe that design is so important to everything from improving our mood to how other people see us, so I always try to have a nicely designed website, and I always make sure that my home is well-designed (at least in my eyes)! I don't spend a lot of money on buying famous design pieces though! I prefer supporting lesser known designers and using found materials and second-hand objects/furniture. I also used to be a design magazine junkie but I'm trying to live a life of minimalism now, so I'm gradually cutting them out of my life. Haha.
4) Favorite designers and sources of inspiration?
I love Tokuhiko Kise's work. He's a furniture designer behind the Japanese brand TRUCK. His work is just so... beautiful. I would love to have my entire home filled with his pieces one day. Maybe when I move to Japan! Haha. There is something very strong and powerful about his furniture pieces. He uses mainly wood, leather and steel, a timeless combination that, together with solid workmanship, results in some pretty classic furniture. As for sources of inspiration, as is evident, I love Japanese design, so one of my favorite websites is LIFECYCLING, which documents homes of Japanese creatives. I also love looking at Freunde von Freunden, like everyone else!
5) Thank you for curating this collection. How does it reflect your personal style?
The items curated in this collection are all items I would love to have in my home - they all have clean, simple, minimalistic design, sometimes with a pop of color to help break the monotony and spice things up a little. I also love it when a design piece draws attention to the material used, like the concrete Brooklyn Planter and the beautiful pastel-colored porcelain Amai cups and plates.
6) Top 3 picks from the collection?
M Rack: I am a lover of books, and I can give up everything else except for books, so I will always need a sturdy, good-looking bookshelf. I love the raw look of the M Rack and its simple beauty.
Radon Nigra Floor Lamp: This floor lamp has a classic look to it that allows it to fit into any kind of environment - industrial, modern, minimalistic. I love its versatility and also its slightly futuristic look.
7) What can we look forward to from you in the year ahead?
In April I will be in Nepal to work on a set of images about a monastery and the people living in the surrounding area. Hopefully an exhibition or a book can come out of that journey, which I can use to help raise funds for them! In 2014 I hope to use photography as a tool to help others - I think life is only meaningful if we use our skills and what we are good at to make this world a better place!