Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Tim Walker: Story Teller at Somerset House

With Christmas, flu and all manner of other inconveniences well out of the way, I’m officially back to work, and I’m aware this blog’s balance has tipped heavily in the favour of ‘rock’ in recent months, so I fully intend to give ‘runway’ the space it deserves. First up is the Tim Walker exhibition in the East Wing Galleries at Somerset House, that I promised to review way back in September when I unsuccessfully stalked him at The RPS Awards.

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

In a world where creativity is increasingly computer generated, there is something refreshing, and indeed magical, about the fantasy world that Walker captures using a spectacular array of other-worldly props. From an elegant swan boat to a giant doll with blonde ringlets, he conjures up a dream world where anything is possible, and if a prop looks real, then that is probably because it is.

My obsession with Walker’s work began many years ago whilst writing my university dissertation, an exploration into the relationship between fashion magazines and body image in women. It was more specifically a defence of the fashion magazines that I love so dearly, and an attempt to demonstrate that fashion is such an elaborate myth that it cannot possibly have a negative effect on a woman’s body image unless there is an underlying issue already.

Walker’s work was the perfect example. The beautiful shoots that I would pore over in Vogue often showed little of the clothes, or even the female form, focussing instead on telling a rather stylish yet fantastical story or capturing a beautifully lit scene. I had discovered a true artist and not someone whose primary focus was the hard sell (although there is no denying that the end product was, and still is, always very desirable.)

Tim Walker: Story Teller is a celebration of some of his most memorable work to date. It is an incredible well-curated exhibition, with a selection of prints displayed alongside installations and some of his most iconic props that bring the images to life. Almost as soon as you enter you are greeted by the near life-size Spitfire thats tail can be seen bursting through a door behind which stands an immaculate Lily Donaldson.

Lily Donaldson and Blue Spitfire Glemham Hall, Suffolk, 2009 © Tim Walker
The Blue Spitfire in place at Somerset House

What struck me the most whilst wandering through the gallery is a fact that I already knew but that became clearer than ever when standing face to face with such a beautiful collection – that Walker is the complete package. He is not simply a technically gifted photographer who can take the best possible shot of a given subject, he is a visionary, someone with the ability to conceive an amazing idea in preliminary sketches, turn it into a reality then capture perfectly the original story that he wanted to convey.

If I sound a little obsessed with Tim Walker it’s because I am, and have been ever since his work first jumped out at me from the pages of Vogue. He doesn’t just take a picture, he quite literally creates it, and in the glossy world of fashion his work always stands out thanks to his ability to consistently create something colourful and new. There are only a few weeks left of the exhibition, so if you are interested in either fashion or photography, I recommend you take a trip and see for yourself exactly why, for me, Walker is the most distinctive fashion photographer of his era.

Tim Walker: Story Teller, until 27 January at Somerset House, free admission

Karlie Kloss and broken Humpty Dumpty Rye, East Sussex, 2010 © Tim Walker
A fabulous installation featuring giant snails used in a shoot
Alexander McQueen with skull and cigarettes Clerkenwell, London, 2009 © Tim Walker


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