Presley Presents… Tim Walker

Photograph of Claire Foy on a horse by Tim Walker
Claire Foy by Tim Walker for American Vogue, December 2017

Unit 5 1.1

The 3rd of our class’ presentations on portrait/studio photographers was on Tim Walker. Luddite that I am, while I must have seen some of Walker’s work before, I knew FA about him until Presley did his presentation. The man (Tim, not Presley) could have strolled up and smacked me in the face with a wet fish and I’d have honestly been none the wiser.  So Presley’s presentation was an absolute treat.

Photograph of Saoirse Ronan by Tim Walker
Saoirse Ronan by Tim Walker for W Magazine, 2015

Born in 1970, Walker’s love of photography was kicked off when he worked for a year on the Cecil Beaton archive at London’s Condé Nast library. (Not a bad start, eh? Imagine being surrounded by Beaton’s work for that time. Bliss.) He followed that with a BA Hons Photography degree at Exeter College of Art and, after graduating in 1994, he moved to NYC to assist Richard Avedon. A prodigious talent, by 25 he was shooting for Vogue.

Fashion shoot by Tim Walker for Italian Vogue
Tim Walker for Italian Vogue, 2015

Apparently, he doesn’t have a technical mind and, to begin with, was put off photography by all the buttons and rules. It was getting his head around the idea that the camera is “just a box between you and your subject” that gave him the freedom to explore and find a way to express himself.

He must have got his head round all the tecchy stuff at some point, though, as his portfolio’s insane. Yes, he photographs fashion, but you clearly don’t give him a bell when you want to flog a white shift dress for M&S because, frankly, the clothes take second (maybe third?) place here to the overall feel. Renowned for his big, theatrical productions; mood and angles are everything.

Photograph of Karen Elson and a lion by Tim Walker for Love Magazine
Karen Elson & Atlas the Lion by Tim Walker for Love Magazine, 2013.

Flamboyant; lavish; surreal; gothic; operatic; macabre; dreamlike; opulent; unsettling; romantic; freaky; whimsical; dark as hell… looking at his work I felt like I’d followed Alice through the Looking Glass; tumbled down the rabbit hole and fallen into a completely different, utterly magical and quite bizarre world. (Albeit a carefully orchestrated fairytale world: he’s not opportunistic, his view being “Grab it; take hold of it”.)

And that was before I’d seen these…

Queen of hearts fantasy photography by Tim Walker for Pirelli Calendar, 2018
Adwoa Aboah, King Owusu, Alpha Dia, RuPaul, Djimon Hounsou, Wilson Oryema, Adut Akech by Tim Walker. Pirelli Calendar, 2018
Duckie Thot as Alice in Wonderland, by Tim Walker. Pirelli Calendar, 2018
Duckie Thot by Tim Walker. Pirelli Calendar, 2018

And the most insane bit? He shoots using a Pentax 67 and doesn’t shoot digital. Christ knows how he does it (or what his film and Polaroid bill is) but his advice is to “Read, look, research” and to “Only photograph what you love”.

Amen to that.

Thanks for the heads up, Presley.

The Victoria & Albert Museum and the National Portrait Gallery in London include Walker’s photographs in their permanent collections. Find out more at www.timwalkerphotography.com

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