Columns on fashion, culture and ideas

Art & Culture / In Pictures

Tim Walker, Story Teller

In Pictures is a still and moving image gallery for significant works, events and places

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

Yesterday, Tim Walker told us, “If you’re going to do a show there’s no point in just putting a picture on a wall, you have to educate and explain”...

Yesterday, Tim Walker told us, “If you’re going to do a show there’s no point in just putting a picture on a wall, you have to educate and explain”. Tim Walker, Story Teller does just that, providing a rare behind-the-scenes look at the fashion photographer’s process and practice with iconic images displayed alongside props and paraphernalia that magazine readers will instantly recognise from his transcendental fashion stories. To learn more, we asked the imaginative, ambitious and exciting photographer to narrate some of his (and our) favourite images.

Stella Tennant, Northumberland, 2007... “I reference ad infinitum, I look at films…but I make sure it’s so mixed up that you can’t tell. This one in particular is a combination of The Wizard of Oz, The Wicked Witch of the West arriving in a puff of smoke, and a film called A Matter of Life and Death where the character from heaven is a very dandy French revolutionary who appears in the rhododendrons at night, played by David Niven. So you’ve got two very famous films, applied to fashion photography, using a model so unbelievably graceful she looks like she’s literally floated into the picture. She’s standing still because the smoke bomb that went off only lasts seven seconds, plus she looks like she’s in Kabul because of all the hot rocks of explosives surrounding her. It’s actually a kind of war zone, a pink war zone. It’s one of my favourites.”

“If you’re going to do a show there’s no point in just putting a picture on a wall, you have to educate and explain”

Mrs. Lishman & Her Flying Saucer, Beale, Northumberland, 2009 for British Vogue... “We were on a shoot for Vogue and I’d had this idea about a UFO that I wanted to shoot on a very mundane street so that there was a contrast between the fantasy and reality elements. While we were setting the shot up outside this house the lady that lived there came out of her door and asked if she could be a part of the picture. You can’t see but she’s actually sitting on her little plastic chair inside the UFO. We had to lift and lower her into it because she couldn’t crawl inside, and then we shut the lid and took the picture.”

Liu Wen and Xiao Wen, New York, 2011 for W Magazine... “I was very interested in the idea of China because people were talking about it a lot and I’d never been there before. If you look at the painter Henri Rousseau he painted multiple pictures of the jungle yet he’d never been so his paintings were romantic notions of the place. I wanted to take the same approach and was interested in the idea of China being the future and the past so I called the series Ancient/Modern China. There are some other pictures displayed in the exhibition from that story and they are all about my fantasy notion of future and my fantasy of the past. Luckily, Balenciaga had done these hats and clothes that somehow worked as a notion of the future.”

Lindsey Wixon, Northumberland, 2011 for Italian Vogue... “This was very much about telling a narrative or the suggestion of a narrative. Andy Hillman came up with the idea of the doll. He sent me a picture from a Fellini film – you know the way Fellini always plays with scale? – well, Andy said, ‘what about doing a doll?’ So I spoke to the stylist Jacob K and he told me that many of the collections that season had featured references to the babydoll dress, Courtney Love and Hole. Lindsey is wearing Louis Vuitton in this image and in others from the series she’s wearing Meadham Kirchhoff who did a whole collection based on Courtney Love. Lindsey was directed to be Courtney so this is kind of a little homage to her.”

Tim Walker, Story Teller is at Somerset House until January 27, 2013.

Text by Frankie Mathieson

Newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter for weekly updates