Photographer gets actors to make a scene

Tyler Shields has no shortage of big names wanting to pose in crazy scenarios, he tells Charlotte Cripps

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The Independent Online

The photographer Tyler Shields, 30, has two young muses from Hollywood royalty: his girlfriend, Francesca Eastwood, 19, Clint Eastwood's daughter, and the 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, shows Eastwood's mouth full of glitter and diamonds. Priced at $40,000 (£25,000) a pop, it 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 to see 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."

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 to Eastwood but will eventually get married, 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 Francesca. "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."

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, who the photographer met through a mutual friend, is photographed dancing in the street with a toy panda. In other photographs, she is covered in milk after swigging it from a carton while licking a piece of raw 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 British socialite Tamara Ecclestone, who 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?' She had it in envelopes when I arrived."

Shields was born in Jacksonville, Florida into poverty – his father became handicapped when he was 15, forcing Shields to leave home to earn a living, competing in extreme sports. He travelled the world rollerblading and skateboarding to support his family. At 17 he started directing music videos for the rapper Ghostface Killah. At 21 he turned to photography.

Most of his friendships with the rich and famous 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."