Tim Walker – Story Teller

Review by Gerhard Clausing

This large and colorful collection of images represents a fruitful intersection of fashion photography and fine art. Tim Walker is a joyful interpreter of contemporary culture; he intensifies interpretations of reality with surrealistic elements inspired by folklore and a creative and vivid imagination, resulting in a collection of scenes that is both surprising and full of metaphors to think about. The magic of childhood with its ambiguous fairy tales and nursery rhymes is made manifest in a mysterious world of themes for grownups.

Well, metaphors are meant for us to compare our reality with our imagination, our hopes, and our dreams. Metaphors are an old literary technique, and they work best when they jog something in our memory banks which we can connect with our feelings. In photography, metaphors can be created in a variety of ways – through color associations, shapes and textures, as well as through surprising or jarring juxtapositions, and by the use of lower camera angles.

So, for instance, Tim Walker as a master of color uses models wearing red or velvety garments or bright red lipstick, or dolls with red bows, to remind us of old folk figures like Little Red Riding Hood – red is a very sensuous color, so perhaps the little girl is not so little any more, but rather on her way to becoming an adult… Is that hand that we see on the cover showing characteristics of the paw of a wolf? And is a wolf or are some wolves actually lurking around the corner? Animals play an important role in Tim Walker’s photographic fantasy world too – they assume some human characteristics or even achieve sizes that outdo the humans with which they appear in these fantasy scenes, with predominantly warm colors found throughout the scenes presented.

Both fashion photography and certain kinds of fine art projects require the kind of artistic and photographic magic that combines various unexpected elements into a single image. Techniques are very similar to those used in theater or in movies, a combination of staging and other artistry. This photobook also lets us in on some storyboards that were created prior to the shoots and the creation of the final images.

“When you are a fashion photographer

everything is contrived from the start.

Nothing is r e a l.

So what you are trying to do in this fake world

is to make a real moment happen

by installing genuineness into the artifice.”  Tim Walker, p. 26

Walker’s emphasis is on the joy of creating magical moments. The work with models, art directors, makeup people, and lighting experts also includes the use of rabbits, flying insects, snails, spiders, penguins, and even big cats. Not to mention an injured Humpty Dumpty, human skeletons, and severed heads! Or how about some senior citizens in flight-ready saucers… Of course, such a mysterious and entertaining book is not complete without a portrait of David Lynch. You have to check it out for yourself to believe all the surreal scenes, printed beautifully on large pages. A most enjoyable visual journey, ably supported by interesting quotes and personal observations by Tim Walker, an intro by Kate Bush and an extensive essay by Robin Muir, helping us appreciate all the magical moments and the creative process that brings them about.

“Genuinely, I only photograph what I love.

Just follow that and I think you’ll always be led in that way.

You will always know where you are going.”  Tim Walker, p. 237

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The PhotoBook Journal previously reviewed Tim Walker’s Shoot for the Moon.

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Gerhard Clausing, PhotoBook Journal Associate Editor, is an author and photographer from Southern California.

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Tim Walker – Story Teller

Photographer:  Tim Walker (born in England, lives in London)

Art Director:  Ruth Ansel

Publisher:  Thames & Hudson, New York, NY; First paperback edition © 2021

Texts:  Kate Bush, Robin Muir, Tim Walker

Language:  English

Softcover, illustrated; 256 pages, paginated; 11 x 13.5 inches / 28 x 34.5 cm; printed and bound in China by C&C Offset Printing Co. Ltd.  ISBN 978-0-500-29391-1

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Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s).

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