Amanda Teoh AKA Aetll (pronounced "a-toll") is a photographer currently based in sunny Singapore. Her work is highly influenced by her Chinese roots and her friends in the LGBTQIA+ community. Aetll gives voice to people, often women, on the brink of renaissance and in a state of vulnerability. The purpose of her work? To get people thinking about life's circumstances in new ways by encouraging open interpretation of her work.
This is a conversation with Aetll. Enjoy.
ALL PHOTOS BY AETLL
FEMALE HERCULES: Why do you incorporate many Asian influences in your work?
AETLL: I incorporate a lot of Asian influences into my work because I genuinely love my culture, I'm Chinese and proud of it. I feel that in the Singapore media, there is still a very prominent favor towards Western beauty and the type of lifestyle they want to promote and depict. I want to encourage people to hold on to their roots because Singapore prides itself to be a multi-racial and multi-cultural nation, yet we do not embrace it. I want the younger generations to be proud of where they come from and who they are. I personally love traditional elements of my culture and I try to incorporate it into everything – my house, my style, and my work!
How do you choose to depict femininity?
I choose to depict femininity the way that the individual views herself. I like to think of myself as a rather empathetic person, so I make sure to capture the vulnerability of my subjects in a way that I feel they are comfortable with sharing with the world.
How did you conceptualize your shoot with Gigi?
For my shoot with Gigi, it was actually titled "Never Wanna Grow Up". It was about a girl who was growing into a woman, as it was supposed to represent her "coming of age" into adulthood.
Is there a reason for her looking so somber and youthful?
I wanted her to convey this feeling of sadness and somberness because adulthood usually means saying goodbye to your childhood and not being able to have fun the way you used to.
Hence the choice of the styling, the doll clothes and the pigtails. It is the visual representation of a girl who is living in denial.
Why do you choose the LGBTQIA+ community often as the subject of your work?
Honestly it's because I just love the LGBTQIA+ community so much. There have been so many people who have touched my life in so many ways for years. I can't do much because I don't have a huge platform but I feel like as a straight person in a rather uptight country like Singapore, my voice is more likely to be heard and I want to use that to my advantage and be an advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community. I always want to spread love and acceptance in everything I do.
For "BREATHE", I wanted to depict the LGBTQIA+ community as the raw, vulnerable humans they are. My friend and stylist, Mazri Ismail (@mazriismail) is a huge inspiration to me and he told me that as part of the LGBTQIA+ community, he just wants to be seen and treated as an equal. People from the community don't want to be seen as mutually exclusive or special just because they identify differently from another individual.
Models are members of the LGBTQIA+ community: Rifqi Abdat (@rifqiabdat), Joel Kiam (@joel_kiam), Anneliese Möller (@frau.anneliese), Tan Ya (@inntya).
What do you HATE about photography?
The creative industry in Singapore is really competitive. It's hard to get recognition sometimes even though you work so hard. Another thing I really dislike is you can't trademark a concept or idea. Although it's true that nothing is completely original, it's not a good feeling to see people in the creative industry copy off others' hard work. But as they say, imitation is the best form of flattery.
What do you LOVE about photography?
As for the things I love about photography, I love learning new things. I love experimenting with new things. I love working hard and creating something that I am proud to share with people. I love meeting and making friends with people who share similar interests with me. I love capturing moments that you don't really pay attention to in real life. I love how every photograph conveys a story and emotion and each person can interpret it in whatever way they choose to.
Photography is a lot more than just owning a camera and taking photos. Photography to me is a medium I can use to connect with people whom I don't even need to meet, and I can touch their lives. No matter how small of an impact, it still is an impact.
AETLL's stylist: Mazri Ismail (@mazriismail)
AETLL's hair and makeup artist: Hamkah Latib (@humcariley)
ALL PHOTOS BY AETLL