Tyler Shields: 'Actors want to act so I give them a platform to do it'

Tyler Shields has no shortage of Hollywood names wanting to pose in crazy scenarios

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The Independent Culture

The photographer Tyler Shields, 30, has two young muses from Hollywood royalty: his girlfriend, Francesca Eastwood, 19, who is Clint Eastwood's daughter, and Scream 4 actress Emma Roberts, 21, who is Julia Roberts' niece. "My muses both have incredible abilities," Shields says.

His best-selling work, Glitter Mouth, of Eastwood's mouth full of glitter and diamonds, which sells at $40,000 (£25,000) a pop, has sold out. "I tried Glitter Mouth with other people but they would choke or gag. They couldn't do it. Nobody else could do it except Francesca."

Roberts stars in his Barbie series, her face poking through a red wall at Barbie decapitating Ken, and one of the works has been acquired by the Tate. "Francesca styled the Barbies and cut their hair for the shoot," Shields says. "The girls are really supportive of each other – not competitive. It comes down to what we are doing as to who I use. Emma hates the cold and Francesca hates the heat."

Other bright, stylised photographs include Eastwood chainsawing a $100,000 red crocodile Hermes Birkin bag before it is burnt for the sake of art. The duo – both up-and-coming actresses – are also photographed together holding on to an old telephone and its cord in a street in LA.

Shields, who says he is not "technically" engaged but will eventually get married to Eastwood, is appearing in Mrs Eastwood & Company, a bizarre reality-TV series now airing in the UK on E!. It follows the lives of Clint Eastwood's wife, Dina, and family with the odd sighting of Clint. "It's Hollywood," Shields says. "Before we even did this show, we were being chased by the paparazzi."

He recalls first meeting her famous dad about eight months ago – two months after he started dating his daughter. "I was in his kitchen cooking chicken at 2am in the morning when Clint walked in. So it was funny. I was like, 'Hey'. I wasn't nervous when I met him. I don't believe in nerves. They are all just people. Everybody goes to the bathroom."

It is perhaps this refusal to treat actors as special and different that has propelled Shields into the position of being asked by stars to photograph them in crazy scenarios. Mischa Barton, whom the photographer met through a mutual friend – the lead singer of the LA band Deep Valley, is photographed dancing in the street with a toy panda. In other photographs, she is covered in milk after swigging it messily from a carton while lying on a chequered kitchen floor and also licking a raw lump of meat. "We had lunch together and I was watching her eat a hamburger," Shields says. "I was like, 'I want her to eat raw meat'. That is all I could think about."

The controversial snaps of Glee's Heather Morris dressed as a housewife with an iron and sporting a black eye caused outrage. Lindsay Lohan tweeted Shields asking to be photographed; she posed as a vampire, with a knife and blood and holding a gun. "Actors want to act so I give them a platform to do it and be creative."

A gloomy Juno Temple cries blood next to Roberts – even actress Hayden Panettiere is seen licking an M16 machine gun. More artistic shots include Roberts on top of a hill in Hollywood at night, her tiny outline visible in the darkness. A photograph of Morgan Eastwood, Clint's youngest daughter, in a swimming pool hangs in the Eastwood family mansion at Carmel-by-the-Sea in California. Shields poses in his own photographs with his girlfriend as they illegally climb the gates of Buckingham Palace.

The British socialite Tamara Ecclestone, daughter of Formula One's Bernie Ecclestone, whom Shields has photographed sweeping London streets, also agreed to pose naked on her bed at home, in a pile of £1m in £50 notes. "I said to her, 'You need to get £1m in cash'," he says. "She said: 'Ok, can you come on Friday?'"

Shields' childhood was a far cry from the glamorous world of Hollywood, where he has lived for about eight years. He was born in Jacksonville, Florida into total poverty – his father became handicapped when he was aged 15 – forcing Shields to leave home to earn a living from competing in extreme sports. He travelled all over the world rollerblading and skateboarding to support his family. After doing skate videos, at 17 he started directing music videos for the rapper Ghostface Killah. At 21 he turned to photography.

One of his first shots was of actor Ben Foster, of 3:10 to Yuma, jumping off a building. Most of his friendships with famous people happened organically – he hardly ever went out. "I think what people love about me is that I was a poor kid from Florida who had a piece-of-shit camera. The point of it is that it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from; if you have a dream you can create anything you want in this world."

In his first coffee-table book The Dirty Side Of Glamour, which will be published by Harper Collins next year, his appeal as a photographer to the stars is clear. "I'm trying to show people a different side of the world."

Shields, who has released his first novel, Smartest Man, available digitally on Amazon, is directing his first movie, Final Girl. He starts filming the thriller starring Abigail Breslin in November in Vancouver, Canada. It also offers his girlfriend her first major movie role.

His new photographs out in May will be "the craziest period" he has done. "It's a new style – unlike anything you've seen. It is death-defying – actors are doing real stunts in this one." He confirms his two muses take part in this series in a big way.

Tyler Shields' works can be bought through A Gallery: www.agallery.co.uk

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