As one of the world’s greatest fashion photographers Tim Walker’s work is no stranger to the glossy pages of the most elite magazines and prominent gallery walls around the world. His dreamily surreal works of art draw viewers in to a world of otherness, taking us on a journey of innocent exhilaration, back to an era of fantastical adventure and whimsical beauty. Sitting somewhere between a dream and a nightmare, Walker’s creative outcomes are born of a process of unparalleled inventiveness and a striking imagination that holds him as the one of the most notable artists of the 21st century.
Upon examining Walker’s creations, one might consider him to be the survivor of a dark and deranged childhood but, born in Guilford, Surrey in England in 1970, he grew up in an isolated part of rural Dorset with his parents and brother in what he openly shares was quite an idyllic childhood; spending most of his time playing outside and drawing cartoons. Walker’s passion for photography began at the Condé Nast library in London while he worked cataloguing the prestigious Cecil Beaton archive. Immediately bitten by the photography bug and inspired by Beaton’s symbolic portfolio, he applied to Exeter College of Art where he studied his art of choice. Upon graduating in 1994, he worked as a freelance photographic assistant prior to making the big move to New York City to work as a full time assistant to legendary photographer Richard Avedon. His time with Avedon was at the height of the 90’s ‘supers’ era, a time when supermodels weren’t getting out of bed for less than $10,000 a day and there was seemingly no end to the frolicking and frivolity of the fashion industry. Having spoken openly of his one year stint with the famed photographer, working as his fourth assistant, he was eventually fired by Avedon, stating “I didn’t hustle enough”.
Upon returning to the UK however, he gained instant respect with his industry peers and was chosen by Vogue magazine to shoot his first cover story for the July, 2005 issue. This was followed by a multitude of steps resulting in what his career is today: iconic. In 2008 his first major show was held at the Design Museum in London, also coinciding with the publication of his first monograph. He was awarded the ‘Isabella Blow Award for Fashion Creator’ by the BFC that same year, followed by recognition from the International Centre of Photography in New York in the form of the prestigious ‘Infinity Award’. His work is held in the permanent collections of both London’s Victoria and Albert and the National Portrait Gallery while his ongoing relationship with Vogue has been ever existent since his first commission for the magazine at age 25. He has shot many celebrities such as Solange Knowles, Tilda Swinton and David Lynch, legendary designers Alexander McQueen (perhaps his most iconic piece of work) and Vivienne Westwood and models Kate Moss, Sophie Dahl and Lily Cole. Walker’s work can be seen in high-end publications such as Vanity Fair, W, i-D, Harpers Bazaar, LOVE and a variety of regional editions of Vogue around the world. His last major exhibition opened in 2012 as a mid-career retrospective at Somerset House in London.
Splendid staging and outlandishly romantic themes distinguish Walker’s unmissable style from the masses, building on his iconic work the photographer has most recently ventured into the world of video - something he sees as an important and natural evolution at a time when print media is dying at an alarming rate. Despite such realities though, he remains typically private and chooses to shy away from the digital means of self-promotion, meaning you won’t find him on Instagram, unlike many artists today. It is perhaps a beautiful rarity in a time of intense self-promotion and obsessive scrolling. He believes that images should not be simply consumed but experienced, and certainly not all in the same grid-sized squares on a tiny screen. He worries of the dangers we face looking at and consuming all we do via technology. Of it all he wisely says, “Instagram is scary. Be careful. Nineteen Eight-Four”.
Tim Walker is undoubtedly a visionary of our times. While deranged dreamscapes and high concept fashion shoots define this artists greatest contributions, it is only correct that these achievements be celebrated so deservedly. Currently showing at the V&A in London is the ultimate portrayal of Tim Walker’s extraordinary creative process, showcasing his pictures, films, photographic set and special installations, including some 10 pieces of new works exclusively created for the show. A show surely not to be missed.
Tim Walk: Wonderful Things is open at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London till March 8th 2020.