Monday, 22 October 2012

Tim Walker

I am a huge Tim Walker fan. His style of dreamy, fantastical, fun photography is something that really appeals to me. During my degree, 'Pictures' was always my favourite starting point for initial ideas and inspiration. Although I was really disappointed when I missed out on tickets to his upcoming talk at Somerset house, to accompany his new exhibition 'Story Teller', I remembered that I had already been to a lecture he gave whist at uni. The lecture was for photography students with a big sign on the door saying fashion students would not be allowed in because of a "lack of space". However, any fashion student will tell you how they are constantly reminded that being pushy gets you places and that the art of the blag is a most important skill, so on the back row were about 1/3 of my fashion class. Honestly I think the talk was wasted on some people. Whist I sat furiously scribbling notes and thinking that I must go back through my issues of vogue to search out the images discussed, one boy in front of me merely wrote the date and the words 'Tim Walker' at the top of his otherwise blank page! At one point what couture was had to be explained. 

When I looked through his website at all his images (I really recommend doing this) I found so many images that I never realised were his but are in my boxes of photocopies. I suspect that 1/3 of my inspiration came from his images.

Here is what I took away from that talk. 

Tim Walker spoke about trying to create a fantasy that doesn't exist and that fashion isn't real, it's a complete pretence. I can imagine you'd feel that way if you saw behind the gloss and glamour of fashion, like meeting someone you admired and them being crushingly dull. He said that fashion photography was the dream side of photography, that it could be a fantasy.

He talked about how the shoots aren't completely storyboarded or planned and explained that there is a lot of figuring it out on the day involved. He spoke of a "fudged effort" and that it can be hard to plan as you're following the mood of something in you head - which I could really relate to. There is also the element of just spotting the right moment for a photo, such as when the model was just waiting about or a piece of the set has fallen, that photography was instinctive. He said he didn't always work this way, he used to be more scripted taking polaroids (which can be seen in his book Pictures) to choose what best depicts what he wanted.

There are usually around 20 people on set for the shoots; Tim Walker himself and his assistant, the set designer and three or four people helping them, the stylist and stylist's assistant, hair and their assistant and makeup and their assistant as well as the model (a fair few assistants then!).

The size and spectacle of the shoot relies heavily on the budget set; Italian Vogue -which has some super Tim Walker stories in it - has a smaller budget than British Vogue and it is Tim Walker who proposes the ideas to the magazines.

For this photo the stylist didn't want the rabbit head and the wings and he really had to fight to have them included.

This shoot was based on willow patterned china. He talked about how sometimes (such as in this photo) you are creating a stage to perform on and you have to work with the set. This shoot took 2 days.

He talked a lot about the Roald Dahl shoot for Vogue, which is one of my favourites. For this shoot he took the stories and characters that he liked and developed visual ideas. He liked that Roald Dahl didn't like TV so he thought it would be funny to have a giant TV. The TV itself is made from cardboard and polystyrene. To him fashion is just a piece of entertainment and he like the idea of telling a story that amused him.

At the time I got the impression that the photographer was fed up with the big fantasy set pieces in Vogue. I remembered this when I saw a shoot in Vogue that I was certain was the brain child of Tim Walker but in fact was not... I thought that they'd have to find someone else who'd do the big elaborate sets.

He said he'd been doing the set pieces for 10 years and that he was becoming more interested in simpler portraits, like these ones for Vogue, which I have always found memorable. The McQueen photo became iconic after his death and he spoke about photographing him. Tim Walker said that he had always thought of McQueen as a 'rebel pirate' and wanted to capture that. He had made for McQueen a cross bones bow tie and wanted him to have a skull on his head. McQueen hated the idea and instead wanted to just sit with the skull as he had liked it. 

He said he only had one hour with each person and he had to carefully consider how to capture them and their personalities. Vivienne Westwood arrived in an outfit that he felt couldn't portray Westwood as punk because it set a soft mood for the photo. Sometimes he doesn't want to direct the person, he doesn't want to shatter anything, just create an honest photo.

Speaking about how he had been taking photos of people he'd found on the street and friends of friends, he described as just people he found interesting with plain simple backgrounds. He said he didn't want to be pigeonholed and that taking portraits was very refreshing.

He spoke about how he had been taking photos of people he'd found on the street and friend of friends, just people he found interesting with plain simple backgrounds. He said he didn't want to be pigeonholed and that taking portraits was very refreshing. I have noticed him doing more portraiture work in the magazines. He also said that photographing someone at the table makes the portrait easier. I did notice that a lot of his portraits are done sat at a table.

Remarking that a portait is only as good as the person in front of you, whereas a set piece is more about the effort and the model, he shot in colour for the first time on his first shoot for Vogue. One thing that Walker is known for is that his photos are real. Those cats are really pastel colours, it's not been photoshopped in. He said that he doesn't use photoshop because he likes to stick to what he knows but is beginning to embrace the technology a little more now. He also said that having something real infront of you can create a better reaction, a better photograph. He loves his set photography and described it as 'photographing your imagination'.

All images are from Tim Walker's Website. 


Elizabeth Daisy. said...

I just love all of the above shots, they're fabulous, so orginal and obviously created by a wonderful imagination!

Eda ♥

Candyfloss Curls, Cupcakes & Couture


Malin Aldhagen said...

Nice blog!! would you mind following each other via bloglovin? :)

Malin @

Post a comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


All items gifted to me by a company will be clearly marked as such. Certain links within blog post may be affilate links. I only work with companies that I like and fit the aesthetic of the blog and am always honest in my opinions. I'll never say something is good, just because I didn't pay for it! I alway try to credit the correct owner of an image, if I've used yours please let me know.
All other images are taken by me, please link back to this blog if you use one.