A New London Exhibition Surfaces Previously Unseen Fantastical Portraits by Vogue Favorite, Photographer Tim Walker

The gallery show coincides with his solo exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Tim Walker, Tilda Swinton in exaggerated collar, 2011. © Tim Walker Studio, Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery.
Tim Walker, Tilda Swinton in exaggerated collar, 2011. © Tim Walker Studio, Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery.

“Curiouser and curiouser!” exclaimed Alice when wandering through the fantastical realm of Wonderland. The same words come to mind when looking through the photographs of editorial dream-maker Tim Walker, whose vivid, surreal whimsy-fairytale-fright tableaux have graced the pages of Vogue month by month for nearly a decade.

Tim Walker, Richard Quinn, floral chair and living mannequin, 2016. © Tim Walker Studio, Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery

Tim Walker, Richard Quinn, floral chair and living mannequin (2016). © Tim Walker Studio, Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery

Right now, London is indulging something of a love affair with Walker’s work. The Victoria & Albert Museum is currently presenting “Wonderful Things,” a dreamlike exhibition that immerses visitors in the the theatrical sets, sumptuous clothing, and fascinating splendor of his editorial images (on view through March 8).

Meanwhile, a short walk away, Michael Hoppen Gallery has also turned its eye to his work, with a focus on his lesser-known portraiture. Over the course of his career, the photographer has turned his lens on the likes of Tilda Swinton, Margaret Atwood, Emma Watson, and many others. 

Tim Walker, Margaret Atwood (2019). © Tim Walker Studio, Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery.

Tim Walker, Margaret Atwood (2019). © Tim Walker Studio, Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery.

The spirit of collaboration is very much apparent in these works, which feel much more intimate than some of his more lavish fashion compositions. “Portraiture is about exploring someone’s identity and that’s a very tender, vulnerable thing,” the artist has said. “The portrait is a handshake, the embrace, the agreement where we meet halfway along a collaborative path.”

Tim Walker, Jordan Robson & Emma Watson (2016). © Tim Walker Studio, Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery.

Tim Walker, Jordan Robson & Emma Watson (2016). © Tim Walker Studio, Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery.

The show includes a number of previously unpublished images. “Tim had been making portraits for some years, so he delved into his archive and we found an amazing plethora of work that in many cases had not been published nor seen,” gallery owner Michael Hoppen said. “The simplicity of some of these ‘white backdrop’ pictures were a revelation to us, as they were clean pictures with little or no sets and props around them—but still retained Tim’s very personal stamp.” 

Tim Walker, Claire Foy (2017). © Tim Walker Studio, Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery.

Tim Walker, Claire Foy (2017). © Tim Walker Studio, Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery.

Here, visitors can delight in seeing Margaret Atwood cast as a good witch-like scribe and take in an almost sculptural depiction of Tilda Swinton, Walker’s ineffable muse. “Tilda brings something otherworldly and uniquely her own, to which Tim responds, ending up with pictures that are always more than the sum of the parts,” Hoppen observed.

For Walker, subjects play an important role in determining the final image. His “muses are capable of inhabiting the worlds he creates for shoots with total truth and conviction,” Hoppen said. “They understand that world completely and how to behave within it, to the point where Tim hardly has to direct them. They share a visual language and communication that results in images that are completely authentic, however extraordinary the environment.” 

“Wonderful People” is on view at Michael Hoppen Gallery, London, through January 25, 2020.


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