Rob, first off congratulations on your second book, how did you find working on this during a global pandemic? Did this create some unexpected challenges?
Thank you so much! Around November I decided I was going to spend my summer travelling to different parts of Northlands. It was something I wanted to do last year but my father was sick so I thought I should wait. This trip was going to be a solo healing trip and I took my camera with me everywhere. Along the way, I watched different innocent interactions between men and it sparked an idea. I think we were in such a lucky position to be able to live the way we do in New Zealand compared to the rest of the world. I think the most challenging part was dealing with the uncertainty. We had two short lockdowns which cut into the time I had left to shoot before summer was over. But I made it just in time!
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in Cambodia where my mum and dad met. I spent a lot of my childhood travelling to developing countries and making friends from all around the world. I think this really opened my mind at an early age and introduced me to different cultures and stories. I moved to New Zealand when I was 12 and went straight into an all boys boarding school. Needless to say it was a culture shock but I have always been quite stubborn so I handled it the best way I could. I came out when I was 16 and have always been rather sure of myself, so people left me alone. I started studying fashion at AUT when I graduated and this was my first introduction to the fashion industry. In the same year I published my first book ‘Come Back to Bed’. I fell into modelling as I was doing press for the book, which then led to some incredible opportunities. Following the first lockdown, I bought a film camera and decided I would take photography seriously. Now here we are.
When did you discover your passion for the creative arts?
I have always loved photography, from such a young age. I have vivid memories of watching Hi5 which got me to become quite a creative kid. I was always making things or telling stories which led me to do all the school productions. I loved it for a while but then became quite shy when I moved here. As soon as I started tech classes in high school, I knew I loved the act of making. In my final year I took fashion design, graphic design, photography, classics and art history. This certainly led me down the creative path.
Your book ‘I’m going to miss you’ explores masculinity, intimacy and the nostalgia of a New Zealand summer, what else can you tell us about it?
I wanted to create a body of work that showed how unique our summers are and how beautiful our men are. It is tender and gentle in the way it captures these ‘kiwi’ men. There are so many different types of people from all walks of life and hearing their stories was probably the most enjoyable part of creating this book. I always hear about the European summer or escaping to the tropics, but New Zealand summers are so special and we rarely have a tangible body of work that reflects that.
Looking forward, where do you see yourself in 5 years?
My dream is to continue to create beautiful things. Books, furniture, clothing collaborations, blankets, towels and more. I don’t plan to have my own brand, rather collaborate with well established brands. In 5 years I would like to be living overseas somewhere and hopefully still working in fashion and photography. Perhaps a third book by then! I would like to make new friends and travel to beautiful countries, as well as visit home for summer.
When you aren’t creating where can we find you?
You can find me sitting on the beach alone listening to music or a podcast. I like to go on hikes and do outdoor activities when I am not creating.
Can you tell us what you're reading and listening to at the moment?
I am currently ready Philosophy Made Simple by Richard H. Popkin and Avrum Stroll. I am listening to a lot of jazz at the moment! Chet Baker and Yusef Lateef are great classics.
Imagery by Apela Bell & Rob Tennent