Tim Walker’s creative universe draws on Alice in Wonderland, the artist’s imagination, phantasm, or fantasy tinged with wonder—all occasionally veering into the uncanny. Such is the exuberant oeuvre of Tim, born Timothy, Walker, creator of photographic dreams. Born in 1970 in England, he produced his first fashion story for Vogue at the age of twenty-five, thus launching a regular collaboration with the magazine. There followed his contributions to LOVE Magazine, W Magazine, and i-D followed, as well as several major exhibitions (including at the Design Museum in London in 2008 and at Somerset House in 2012). An essential fashion photographer, who puts clothing in the service of photography and photographic storytelling, Walker’s work is now part of the permanent collection of the V&A and the National Portrait Gallery.
A new reality
While his work mainly takes on the form of fashion series, it is much more than that: Tim Walker pulls the viewer into a new reality that defies norms and sometimes even gravity and time. At the beginning of the exhibition, a luminous photo of Kate Moss expresses this timeless dimension; in the series Beauty and The Beast for the Italian Vogue of December 2015, the fashion model poses with a white horse. We don’t know either the location or the time period, which contributes to the magic of the image.
Like a corporeal continuum of artistic inspiration, Tim Walker’s muses are accustomed to moving from one frame to the next. These include the models Kate Moss and Karen Elson and the actress Tilda Swinton. “There are certain people I want to photograph again and again. They are not necessarily conventional fashion models but are collaborators and muses who articulate my imaginings better than I ever could,” Walker explained. As if to further underscore the essential role these models play in physically embodying his dreams: “I think about my photos before taking them—I really feel them, imagine them, and fall asleep thinking about them. But when I arrive on the set, I’m very open-minded. I’m excited because I know that my collaborators are going to bring something totally unexpected to my pictures.”
Sharing the dream
Almost all if Tim Walker’s pictures are like a dream sequence. The Lil’ Dragon series is no exception, and its enchanting atmosphere is irresistible: the model personifies the “Empress of Dragons” and walks her tame dragon around a dreamlike setting. Each new photo brings a new dream: one of them features James Spencer, one of the photographer’s favorite models. We see the young man, still in a drab-looking street, looking down at a pony whose coat is as immaculate as the falling snow. For Tim Walker, dreams are a key source of inspiration: “making photographs, to me, is really a kind of dream state.”
By Anastasia Chelini
Tim Walker: Wonderful Things
September 21, 2019 to March 8, 2020
Victoria & Albert Museum, London