Tuesday 20 November 2012


Welcome to the wonderful fantasy world of fashion photographer, Tim Walker; whose flamboyant and often dreamlike images grace the pages of British Vogue and other leading international publications. Currently on show at Somerset House in London until January 27th 2013, Walker's photographs are intricate productions; incorporating set- and model makers and a host of spectacular props. The photographer often depicts fairytales in his images and in his words turns, 'Daydreams into photographs.' Walker's fantasies are rooted for the most part in the magical and innocent world of childhood. 

Olga Shearer on a blue horse. Sennowe Park, Norfolk, 2007
© Tim Walker

Stella Tennant and pink powder cloud. Eglingham Hall, Northumberland, 2007© Tim Walker

It's a baroque world where Dresden shepherdesses come to life; princesses take wing in lilac clouds and the swan, symbol of grace, purity and love, sings its sad song at twilight
 Tim Walker

In the neo-classical galleries in Somerset House, oversized props including dolls, Spitfires, skeletons and insects are on show alongside Walker's fashion shoots and portraits, and are as integral to his photographic stories as his leading ladies and the eccentric country houses he often favours as backdrops. In contrast his portraits are often refreshingly stark and focused on his subjects, but there's always a little Walker twist in the styling, that adds humour, romance or menace to the image. These are images that command a reaction and certainly aren't for shrinking violets.

Giant storyboard sketches also sit alongside the larger than life props to illustrate Walker's fastidious pre-shoot research and planning, something he has done since his first shoot for British Vogue in 1995, at the age of 25. 

The way I work I have to have a mood in my head, a feeling for something. Almost like a set of directions, a map of how to get through the day Tim Walker

Walker's subjects range from supermodels such as Karlie Kloss and Stella Tennant to leading actors including Tilda Swinton and Helena Bonham Carter; who all happily get into character for Walker's fantastical imagery time and time again. Many of the fashion world's flamboyant characters are also depicted through Walker's lens - with Vivienne Westwood and the late Anna Piaggi of Italian Vogue, to name but a few.

Karlie Kloss and broken Humpty Dumpty. Rye, East Sussex, 2010
© Tim Walker

Karlie Kloss in gold feathers. Shoreditch, London, 2010
© Tim Walker 

Giant doll kicks Lindsey Wixson. Eglingham Hall, Northumberland, 2011
© Tim Walker 

Malgosia Bela & five guardsmen. Glemham Hall, Suffolk, 2009
© Tim Walker 

Alexander McQueen with skull and cigarettes. Clerkenwell, London, 2009
© Tim Walker
Kinga Rajzak in flying saucer with members of the West Percy Hunt.
Eglingham Hall, Northumberland, 2009
© Tim Walker 

Tilda Swinton and aviator goggles. Reykjavik, Iceland, 2011
© Tim Walker 

Rollo Hesketh-Harvey & his baguette biplane.
Eglingham Hall, Northumberland, 2009 

© Tim Walker 

A collage of Tim Walker's dreamworld images including portraits of Hamish Bowles of American Vogue with orchid headdress, Alber Elbaz of Lanvin as the March hare, Tilda Swinton swathed in scarlet and the late-Anna Piaggi of Italian Vogue in a cloud of ruffled tulle 

Oversized skeletons and life-size Spitfires appear alongside full blown roses and splashes of brilliant colour at the exhibition. Portraits above include Alber Elbaz of Lanvin behind a model in one of his confections, the late Anna Piaggi of Italian Vogue in one of her signature eclectic outfits and Vivienne Westwood in demure twinset and roses

A montage of  Walker's preliminary sketches for shoots plus a fantastical array of props from a giant swan sleighs to oversized snails and a huge grotesque doll

Lily Donaldson and Blue Spitfire. Glemham Hall, Suffolk, 2009. A reinterpretation of a vivid motif of neo-romantic cinema: the doomed pilot in A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
© Tim Walker 

Tim Walker: Story Teller is such an inspiring exhibition and many of his fashion shoots are extremely filmic in execution, like a series of movie-stills. He often incorporates his faithful teams of hairdressers, make-up artists, model makers etc in his stories and also returns often to his favourite country house locations. So the fact that Walker's images are the result of a collaboration with his trusted team, albeit conducted and fine-tuned by the master himself, comes across very strongly in this show. 

According to Walker, 'Very often there's a kind of nostalgia built into a photograph by virtue of you taking it. You've taken the photograph and it's immediately a thing of the past the moment you press the shutter.'

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