A Walker wonderland

Tim Walker is one of the most innovative, influential and visually exciting fashion photographers working today. His love of adventure and dreaming has taken him back, time and time again, to his childhood storybooks – something made evident in Story Teller, his new show, reviewed here by Choi Liu

Kinga Rajzak in flying saucer with members of the West Percy Hunt, Eglingham Hall, Northumberland, 2009

Tim Walker is one of the most innovative, influential and visually exciting fashion photographers working today. His love of adventure and dreaming has taken him back, time and time again, to his childhood storybooks – something made evident in Story Teller, his new show, reviewed here by Choi Liu.


Olga Shearer on blue horse, Sennowe Park, Norfolk, 2007

Walker’s images blur the boundaries between the natural and the man-made world. With extravagant, lavish sets, they are full of detail, which captivates the viewer and draws them into his world.

The stunning neo-classical Somerset House East Wing Galleries makes a highly appropriate setting for his latest show, Story Teller (Walker’s first exhibition was at the Design Museum in London in 2008). I went along early one miserable, grey, wet Sunday morning. Upon entering the first room I was greeted by a large-scale Spitfire, crashing through the fireplace, and I was immediately transported into Walker’s fantastical world.

Lily Donaldson and Blue Spitfire, Glemham Hall, Suffolk, 2009

Giant doll kicks Lindsey Wixson, Eglingham Hall, Northumberland, 2011

The show is a mix of fashion editorial, personal work and portraits. We are faced with image manipulation every day so it’s really refreshing to see Walker dismissing modern techniques and choosing instead to work with a close team of set designers and modelmakers to help transform his fantasy into reality.

Karlie Kloss and broken Humpty Dumpty, Rye, East Sussex, 2010

Tilda Swinton and aviator goggles, Reykjavik, Iceland, 2011

Dream-like fashion shoots entrance the viewer. In contrast, his portraits have great simplicity. Shot against white walls they still retain his sense of wit and playfulness as can be seen in Alexander McQueen with Skull and Cigarette, Christopher Lee in Vincent Price’s fur hat and Grace Coddington with her famous red hair brushed forward.

Alexander McQueen with skull and cigarettes, Clerkenwell, London, 2009

One of my favourite images is the triple exposure of Guinevere Van Seenus – a double portrait shot for Italian Vogue. It has a gothic macabre feel, which is so different to his dreamlike fairy tale world which we’re so familiar with.

Throughout the exhibition there are a selection of oversized props plus smaller scale models which are featured in his photographs: a white swan boat, snails, a gigantic skeleton, a giant bee playing a double bass and a 15 foot doll. They all help to bring the viewer closer to Walker’s images and show the truly amazing craftsmanship of modelmakers such as Andy Hillman, Rhea Thierstein and Emma Roach.

Xiao Wen & Lui Wen as samurai nuns, New York, 2011

The whole show is beautifully put together and visually stimulating. Even the information on the wall is suitably art directed. It’s not just simply a block of text but playfully laid out as in a child’s storybook.

After spending more than an hour absorbed in Tim Walker‘s world I did not want to return to the grey reality of the real world. I’m sure I’ll be back there again soon.

Tim Walker: Story Teller is at Somerset House East Wing Galleries, London WC2, until January 27.
Details here

Choi Liu was formerly the art buyer at M&C Saatchi. She now works as a creative consultant


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