By Jacky Parker
Opening on Saturday 21 September, the V&A's new immersive exhibition enables you to experience the fantastical imagination of Tim Walker, one of the world’s most inventive photographers – most memorable to many for his spectacularly surreal fashion shoots and illuminating portraiture.
Designed by Shona Heath, Walker’s long-term collaborator, the exhibition celebrates Walker's extraordinary contribution to image-making over the last 25 years – and the inspirational role that the V&A’s collection plays in his creative process.
At the heart of the exhibition are 10 major new photographic projects, influenced by treasures in the V&A’s vast collection.
Cleverly displayed as if you're in one of Walker's surrealists shoots, Heath’s spectacular design guides you on a journey through Walker’s enchanted world, encompassing photographs and the V&A objects that inspired them, short films, photographic sets and props, scrapbooks and sketches.
Images from the photographer's previous projects, featuring some of the biggest names in fashion: models such as Edie Campbell, Lily Cole, Lindsey Wixson and Stella Tennant and designers including Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Comme des Garçons and Rick Owens, are shown alongside portraits of luminaries such as Sir David Attenborough, Margaret Atwood, Peter Blake and David Hockney.
One wall is devoted to the photographer’s muses, including performers Tilda Swinton and Lindsay Kemp, models Kristen McMenamy and Kate Moss, and the artist Grayson Perry.
Text written by Walker adds personal insight and celebrates the talents of the many collaborators who help bring his ideas to life, including stylists and creatives Katy England, Amanda Harlech and Jerry Stafford, and hair and make-up artists Sam Bryant, Malcolm Edwards and Hungry/Johannes Jaruraak among others.
In preparation for the exhibition, Walker visited object stores andconservation studios, meeting many of the museum’s curators, conservators and technicians.
He scoured the V&A’s 145 public galleries, scaled the roof of the 12-acre South Kensington site, and explored the labyrinth of Victorian passages below ground level.
Along the way, he encountered luminous stained-glass windows, vivid Indian miniature paintings, jewelled snuffboxes, erotic illustrations, golden shoes, and a 65-metre-long photograph of the Bayeux Tapestry, the largest photograph in the museum’s collection.
These and many other rare artefacts have inspired Walker’s monumental new photographs, and feature in the exhibition.
Tim Walker comments, “To me, the V&A has always been a palace of dreams – it’s the most inspiring place in the world. The museum’s collection is so wide and eclectic, and I think that’s why it resonates with me so much.
Many of the objects that I saw during my research at the museum made my heart swell and I wanted to try to create a photograph that would relate not only to the physical presence and beauty of that object, but also to my emotional reaction to it.
Each new shoot is a love letter to an object from the V&A collection, and an attempt to capture my encounter with the sublime. For me, beauty is everything. I’m interested in breaking down the boundaries that society has created, to enable more varied types of beauty and the wonderful diversity of humanity to be celebrated. Preparing for this exhibition over the past three years has pushed me into new territories, which is very exciting, and I’m at a stage in my life where I feel brave enough to do that.”
Susanna Brown, Curator of Photographs at the V&A, adds, “We started discussing this project back in 2015 and it’s been a marvellous journey. Tim embarked on a sustained exploration of the museum and many V&A colleagues helped to spark his imagination by unlocking our collection stores and sharing the fascinating stories behind the objects with him.
Tim has a wildly inquisitive mind and a boundless energy, he never stops innovating and these new pictures are some of the most spectacular he has ever made. Tim’s photographs and Shona’s exhibition design combine to create a show that I think our visitors will adore.
The book which accompanies the exhibition reveals more about his complex process and includes fascinating interviews with Tim and twenty of his closest collaborators.”
Tim Walker: Wonderful Things is at the V&A from 21 September 2019 – 8 March 2020
For tickets and further information, go to vam.ac.uk
Inspired? Create a gallery wall at home.
Jacky Parker is a London-based freelance journalist and content creator, specialising in interiors, travel and food. From buying guides and real home case studies to shopping and news pages, she produces a wide range of features for national magazines and SEO content for websites
A long-time contributor to Livingetc, as a member of the team, she regularly reports on the latest trends, speaking to experts and discovering the latest tips. Jacky has also written for other publications such as Homes and Gardens, Ideal Home, Red, Grand Designs, Sunday Times Style and AD, Country Homes and Interiors and ELLE Decoration.
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