From Phnom Penh to London to Kampot town and then back to the Kingdom’s capital, a young Cambodian woman, Tyta Buth, now finds herself flourishing in Phnom Penh’s arts scene.
The 24-year-old photographer has exhibited her works in art galleries across Cambodia in addition to her freelance work as a conceptual portraitist and commercial food photographer.
Tyta Buth, who works under the name Tytaart, earned degrees in Global Business and Design Management at Regent’s University London and studied Strategic Design Management at Parsons School of Design in New York.
She then came back to Cambodia and opened a video game bar in the sleepy town of Kampot, an unusual decision to say the least from a professional standpoint given her education.
Tyta tells The Post: “Coming back from London, I opened the video game bar in Kampot with my mum’s support. It was nice and fun but I realised that what I considered a serious job didn’t bring me fulfilment or happiness.
“One morning I woke up and cried my eyes out asking myself if [running a bar] is what I’m going to be doing in 30 years.”
Then what seemed like another unusual plot twist in her career came a year later when she unexpectedly set out to become a professional conceptual photographer, but Tyta says her heart was always with photography starting at the age of 15 when she got her first camera.
After finishing high school at Northbridge International School in Cambodia, she decided to pursue her studies in the field of design in London. A teenager at the time, Tyta says she knew very little about what photographers actually did aside from photojournalists.
In 2019 she left Kampot and returned to Phnom Penh to pursue a photography career despite being unsure if her talent was really noteworthy or not.
During that first year she didn’t have a big portfolio or much confidence in her work yet and she wasn’t sure whether it would be good enough for commercial clients.
“I was taking photos in my free time for fun and also for some friends’ businesses. I was doing it for free and then I got an opportunity to do wedding photography for an English couple.
“That was the first time I made money from my photos. I started to see that I can actually do something that I love for money when I used to think it could only be a hobby,” she says.
Tyta started attracting bigger clients in 2020 and her portfolio resultantly got bigger. People began to contact her and ask her to work with them. She says this period was significant because she began to feel that she could truly call herself a professional photographer.
The self-taught artist now has a small studio in her apartment but most of her shoots are done on location.
To achieve the quality of work Tyta desires requires a rigorous process but she says she wants to do her best for her clients. She says she always tries to offer them something new in the photos while maintaining authenticity.
Tyta says she loves that this work has enabled her to express her creativity and the ability to translate her abstract thoughts into something concrete and it can be something that brings happiness and joy to people whom she has taken photos for.
“This reminds me of one of my guy friends. I took a photo of him and his girlfriend about a year ago. Just a few months back they asked if I still had that photo because it was the first photo they ever had taken together. It means so much to them.
“Hearing that, I feel delighted that my photo is able to preserve a special memory for someone. Making others happy gives me satisfaction,” she says.
Tyta has now done four art exhibitions and she says her two favourites have been Russian Roulife and Organic Senses because she was able to convey a message through very simple items like eggs, mushrooms and mango flowers.
Russian Roulife is from the Eternal Exhibition at Sra’ Art and it has a striking portrait of an old albino woman – titled Yey Sor – whom Tyta encountered begging in the market in Kampot’s Kampong Trach district. Though the old woman is a total stranger, Tyta says she feels a strong connection between them.
“She was so open in talking to me about her life and in the portrait it feels like I have known her for such a long time. That’s another thing that I’m proud of as a photographer, being able to share someone’s life story with others.”
The old woman agreed to have her photograph taken and Tyta decided to add some eggs and a costume. The eggs symbolised birth or the beginning of life and her headdress and clothing are a tribute to Buddhism.
Tyta says her strongest influence in her life has been and continues to be her mother.
“My mum is such a hard-working woman and she started working when she was very young, even when she was in school. She supports me and gives me everything a daughter could ever ask for.
“She gives me good advice about work and seeing my mum work really hard pushes me to become better at whatever I do. Part of it is that I’m so happy that so far she’s been proud of me and I want that to continue,” she says.
Tyta says she plans on continuing to show her work at art exhibitions and that she’s available to take on new clients if any businesses or individuals are interested in hiring a young photographer with technical ability and creativity.
“I would love to express my gratitude to all the people whom I’ve met and who I’ve worked with. Thank you to the people who believe in what I do and who are always there when I have an exhibition. Without any of them, I wouldn’t be here,” she says.
To find out more about Tyta’s work, check out her website at https://www.tytaphotography.com/