Globetrotting photographers and journalists Desmond Louw and Antonia Heil are based between Cape Town and Berlin. Combining their love of cars, travel and people, they have been gathering content for a book they hope to publish next year. “We love photographing people and their wheels and listening to their stories,” says Antonia. Visit the ‘automotive’ section of their website and you’ll understand why we are so obsessed and why they’re in such demand. When Wanted chatted to them in late October (2016), they’d just wrapped up shooting the Porsche Sport Driving School in Portugal and were heading to Finland on another Porsche commission.

Toni Rakkaen
Image: DNA Photographers Toni Rakkaen

“The people we are including in this book are among the many we have met on our travels in South Africa, the USA, Portugal, Germany and Thailand.” While working on this project, they also discovered that most of these characters are not only passionate about their modes of transport but are also entrepreneurs, creatives, people who love their jobs, and as Desmond says, “are altogether pretty happy people!” Titled ‘wor{king}’, we persuaded them to share these portraits with us, which we will run as weekly posts.

Meet Toni Rakkaen who lives and works in Bangkok, Thailand. Toni is an actor (quite a famous one) and co-owner of barber shop and hair salon Smile Club, based in Siam Square One in Bangkok. 

Toni Rakkaen and his 2001 Mercedes-Benz G-Class 290 GD
Image: DNA Photographers Toni Rakkaen and his 2001 Mercedes-Benz G-Class 290 GD

He felt like doing something very different on the side, so he learned how to cut hair. However, he works full-time in the entertainment industry, acting in movies and a TV series. The name Smile Club comes from his home often being referred to as the ’land of smiles’, and the shop is a treat for the eyes. “We are big into decorating, and everything is inspired by hair.” Toni is part of a group of early thirty-somethings striving to make their city more awesome. “We like to do artworks. We have photographers, videographers, designers, fashion designers, hair dressers, shoe shiners and tattoo artists. We think of ourselves as the new generation who do things they like and not only about the financial reward. The Smile Club is what we are. We didn’t start it with money as a goal, we did it to have fun. It’s our creative outlet. We believe that from doing something that you like, you love, you’ll end up being rewarded and happy. We used to work for someone else, we used to work just for work. But here, it’s about artworks.”

When Toni is not in front of a camera or cutting hair, he works on his motorbikes or goes for a drive in his G-Glass.

“I bought the car five years ago. When I was in high school, I used to read this cartoon about a band and one of the guys who had long hair and cool glasses drove exactly this car. I only knew the typical Mercedes-Benz cars, I’d never seen this model before so I thought maybe it’s not real because it’s in a cartoon. It looks like a box but with the Mercedes-Benz logo at the front. Then I came across the G-Class online and thought ‘Shit, it’s real. The car from the cartoon exists!’ Then I found out that it’s bloody expensive. Just right before I had to work overseas, my friend sent me a message that he found one for me. I immediately wanted to get off the plane to go and get it. It was a lot cheaper than it was supposed to be. It was in a perfect condition.
Once I returned, I bought the car straight away.”

Image: DNA Photographers
Image: DNA Photographers
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