Sunday, 10 May 2015

The Extraordinary World of Tim Walker

Just over a week ago, I experienced my first ever Vogue Festival. I have long been intrigued by the concept since it was launched a few years ago, but had been a bit put off by the price of tickets, which are a little steep..! But, when I heard that this year Tim Walker would be attending, I knew I had to bite the bullet and be there.

I have followed Tim Walker's fashion photography ever since I got my hands on British Vogue. At Sixth Form college, the library had an enormous back catalogue of issues, and I spent many a lunch hour pouring over the fashion stories, always admiring Tim's work above any other. The brilliant colours, doll-like models and fairytale-inspired stories completed held my gaze and inspired me no end. In a world of minimalism and bright studio set ups, here was someone eccentric and extraordinary

Tim's talk was, aptly, held at the Royal Geographical society, where he was well placed to talk about travel and locations within his work. Walking to the lecture theatre, we passed walls lined with maps of far off places as well as dark wooden cases containing all sorts of Victorian travel memorabilia, reminding us of an era of travel not unlike those conjured up in Tim's images. Tim was joined in conversation with stylist Kate Phelan, as well the whole team of creatives that accompany him on location, from the hair and make up artists, to the fashion and photographic assistants. It was lovely to see what a close knit group they have formed over years of working together. Kate described Tim as "an adventurer" and talked about needing "to go with the person that's got that adventurous spirit" when shooting fashion in exotic places.

If you're a committed reader of Vogue, you'll know that Tim's most recent fashion story was shot in Bhutan and features a fiery-haired Karen Elson (see below). Tim described Karen as "a conduit for the fantasy in my head, she becomes the living thing!". It's clear that this really is a team effort with everyone mucking in and coming up with ideas to create the perfect image. Tim emphasised that need for spontaneity and freedom within his images, and although he plans the locations and proportions of images meticulously in his scrapbooks, he made it clear that some of the best photos are those filled with dancing or movement, or when the weather suddenly changes, or a butterfly comes in to shot.

What I loved most about the talk was hearing how down to Earth Tim was about the fashion industry. He admitted that "clothes can sometimes be boring". It's putting clothes into a fantastical location or embedded within a wild, imaginative story that "makes fashion come alive". Despite his reputation as a fashion photographer, it seems that Tim is not at all precious about clothing. This is a man that is all about the image, he thrives on what he calls a 'seeking out of beauty', to find that moment of magic that can only be captured on film.

I'm so glad I went along to this short talk, if only to be re-inspired by fashion imagery in a time were fast-fashion, selfies and the huge momentum of the industry can make it all seem a bit lacklustre. In his images, Tim Walker takes the slow and traditional approach to creating a photograph, using film cameras and natural lighting, and I'm excited to keep following his work and see what he comes up with next.

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