Tim Walker: Storyteller, Somerset House, London
Monday 22 October 2012
A flying saucer chased by a foxhunt and tables laid for a party and suspended in trees are some of the fashion photographer Tim Walker's more extravagant gestures.
Along with a life-sized aeroplane made of French loaves, and a giant insect playing the cello. It’s a world where magic exists and, though darkness threatens, it is never ugly. Beauty rules here, because it is fashion, after all.
It’s a particularly British aesthetic, an Alice in Wonderland world, where edgier models such as Stella Tennant and Karen Elson lark in the grounds of country houses: a pink dress and roses could not make these girls twee. Like a fairy tale, Walker’s imagination can be creepy - a giant doll kicks a barbed wire fence on which a model is stuck - but it’s never frightening.
Not that all of Walker’s images are elaborate. Quintessentially British celebrities appear: Tilda Swinton wears flying goggles against a cool white background; Alexander McQueen’s only props are two cigarettes, one in his mouth and the other in the mouth of a skull on which he leans; Helena Bonham Carter is dressed as the Queen, sipping a can of coke. Walker’s portraits feel stark as compared to the excesses of his fashion spreads.
Walker has claimed that he’s not interested in taking pictures. He has no nerdy interest in light meters and gadgets, it’s simply about holding the camera up and, click, a perfect image. Like the Vanity Fair photographer Annie Leibovitz, his art lies in his extraordinary ability to create magical sets that capture the imagination, and show off beautiful clothes. His is a truly British arcadia, in which eccentricity is part of the fantasy, like the Mad Hatter’s tea party. He often references fairy tales, the cover image of his Storyteller book, which accompanies the exhibition, shows a model who has cracked Humpty Dumpty in two.
Walker learned his craft in the bowels of Vogue magazine, working on Cecil Beaton’s archive. He went on to assist Richard Avedon in New York. Even though his work is unmistakably contemporary there is nostalgia wthin it, for the leisured class and their rounds of tea parties, rose gardens and fox hunting. So, as the end approaches, why not drink champagne and have one last dance.
To 27 January 2014 (www.somersethouse.org.uk)
musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
- 2 McKamey Manor: This 'extreme' haunted house is the stuff of nightmares
- 3 Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
- 4 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 5 David Beckham's Haig Club whisky is exactly what’s wrong with the Highlands
This is what a film sex scene actually looks like on set (mostly awkward)
Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
After Sam Smith’s Mobo success, is the help of a pushy parent the surest route to stardom?
Pottermore: JK Rowling writes new Harry Potter story featuring 'greying' 33-year-old wizard
JK Rowling to publish new Harry Potter story online for Halloween
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Tony Blair 'says Ed Miliband will lose 2015 general election'
Putin: The US is to blame for almost all the world's major conflicts