Ten’s To See: ‘Wonderful Things’ by Tim Walker at the V&A
It’s not a dream, but a Tim Walker image. The renowned British fashion photographer is most known for the fairy-tale storylines that unravel in front of his wide lens. He counts the high priestess Tilda Swinton as his muse, the actress being perhaps the most perfect iteration of the other-worldly beauty his photographs represent in this world. While a lot of the industry seems to be obsessed with turning the focus onto the rough reality, Walker continues to inspire with the unapologetic excessiveness of his imagery. But where does he find his inspirations? In the great halls of the Victoria & Albert museum. So, it’s no coincidence then that the largest exhibition of Walker’s pictures to date is opening tomorrow at the V&A. Wonderful Things is not a retrospective – it’s an introspection into the photographer’s own creative process, from scrapbook to glossy paper print, and then some.
Following the museum’s most-successful exhibition ever (the Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams show garnered 594,994 visitors by the time it closed this September), Wonderful Things takes a totally different approach to fashion. Curated from a totally personal perspective of Tim Walker, the exhibition reflects the process of its making with each of the rooms focusing on one of his 10 recent projects, with additional rooms representing common storylines found within his rich oeuvre.
The sets that enrich Walker’s photographs are created by Shona Heath, who also designed this exhibition by taking the manmade environments from the photos and descending them into the space of the V&A. Works from the museum’s collection that inspired Walker’s projects sit against the photographs and Heath’s sets, tracing the references and subjects found in the imagery such as masculinity, religion and heritage. With each room bringing something new to the conversation, the exhibition shows just how effortlessly Walker shifts between reality and fantasy.
A pink latex curtain leads to The Chapel of Nudes, a space dedicated to his magazine imagery of human bodies in their most natural form, looking like they fell out of one of Michelangelo’s frescoes. The plaques, written in first person, not only give Walker a chance to talk directly to the audience, but also reflect his visuals – the curved lens is emulated in the graphic design of the writing. There’s plenty of Easter eggs like this in the show, with attention to detail (unsurprisingly) being on the top of the priority list when creating the space.
While investing in a photography class might seem like a good idea, a ticket to Wonderful Things will give you a way more interesting insight into the craft of fashion photography. Tim Walker has been doing it successfully for 25 years, and with such flair too. Pessimist or optimist – everyone could use a dose of escapism. It’s as efficient and fun as a Friday night out. Just without the hangover.
‘Wonderful Things’ by Tim Walker is on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum from tomorrow, September 21st, until March 8th 2020. Photographs courtesy of the V&A.