Everything is contrived; nothing is real

"Very often there's a kind of nostalgia built into a photograph by virtue of you taking it. You've taken the photograph and its immediately a thing of the past the moment you press the shutter".

I think that everyone needs to be told a visual story by Tim Walker through the medium of his photography. Even if you choose to detach yourself from fashion and remain unconcerned by who designed what, or when, it does not matter. Walker's work transcends fashion and design and takes you to a world that you could not in your wildest dreams have imagined.

Tim Walker is a London-based British photographer and moving film maker whose extravagant and romantic photographic stills have entranced his followers for many years.

Born in England in 1970, Walker worked as a freelance photographic assistant in London before he moved to New York City, working as a full-time assistant to Richard Avedon. On returning to England his initial focus was portrait and documentary work for UK newspapers and at the age of twenty-five he shot his first fashion story for Vogue.

I recently went to visit the Tim Walker: Story Teller exhibition at Somerset House and was treated to a visual delight for the senses. The major mid-career retrospective is sponsored by Mulberry and marks the launch of his second book, 'Story Teller'.

The exhibition is flanked by wooden floors and stark antique white walls that encourage the magnificent colours to pop out of the photographs. The fireplaces and radiators are also painted white and there are gigantic snails on the wall and lifelike clockwork dolls that make you feel as if you were trapped in his exuberant imagination. Wooden boxes frame photos of various sizes and there are huge red and yellow jelly cases displayed like hats on a hat stand. This is the best grown up's tea party you have ever been invited to.

Come with me on an adventure into some of Tim Walker's beautiful work.


Walker has re-imagined fashion photography in terms of its own rich history and Britain's cultural past. In the exhibition a life-size spitfire in blue and black and white whistles through the interior of the bare white room as if it has just fallen from the sky in front of you. These photographs portray a vivid reinterpretation of Neo-Romantic cinema: the doomed pilot of A Matter of Life and Death (1946).


Walker's photographs are often rooted in childhood and tinged with a very British nostalgia. He is accomplished at telling stories conjured directly from a very youthful imagination.

Princesses take wing in lilac clouds. The swan, symbol of grace, purity and love syncs its sad song at twilight.


To its earliest audience the most magical aspect of photography was that it opened windows onto the world: it provided images of distant landscapes, undiscovered people  and exotic flora that had then been as remote as the stars. It remains absorbing and a platform from where adventures come alive.

"Everything is contrived; nothing is real. You try to make your own real moments. And then you go home and make sense of it".

'What I'm photographing is an imaginary place that never existed but is often connected to something that has already been."


A sense of loss underpins Walker's work and the impermanence of youth and beauty. It is difficult to look at his work without feeling a wistfulness of what will disappear. None more so than his portrait of Anna Piaggi who died at the age of eighty-one in August 2012 and who is already missed by the fashion world.

'Really I only photograph what I truly love. By this I mean I only get involved with and place in front of my camera what moves me uncontrollably deeply.'


Walker is the master of creating  fictive worlds and a parallel world where he sees the world through a child's eyes - in evocative fashion fantasy. This is not a real life though, but a second dimension, where the beautiful and monstrous come alive. He reminds us that it is perfectly acceptable to dream and look beyond what we know in our own time.

"And when everything comes together and you look through the viewfinder, there is a window to something magical. You see something you have never seen."


Walker creates pictures that should be impossible to construct and have an illusive aspect to them. They evoke an enormous feeling of wonder.

"I don't want to sound mystical but sometimes when you take a picture  - when the sets are in place - then something takes over and leads you. It's this sense of extraordinary luck and chance. The shoot is blessed and charmed, and you make pictures that you couldn't in your wildest dreams have imagined. That is the magic of photography."


In Walker's photos nothing is as you might expect. When I look at his photographs, I feel like Alice in Wonderland and wonder if I fall down the rabbit hole, will I keep on tumbling forever? Magic is transient dissolving like shadows and dust in twilight.


Walker is able to draw out a narrative strand in his photographs, as well as showcase beautiful couture. He is also able to construct fictive worlds that are enchanting, sometimes impossible and always alluring.

'The way I work I have to have a mood in my head, a feeling for something, almost like a set of directions, a map of how to gt through the day".


In the end, Walker exults in fashion photography's pretends. The mystique and the charade, the luxuriant drape of cloth, the flowers and the decoration and the happiness of it all - the unmitigated joy of a works, even when it tries to be normal, just can't ever be ordinary.

Where troubles melt like lemon drops, this is the world of Tim Walker.

Tim Walker: Story Teller runs from 18 October - 27 January 2013 in the East Wing Galleries at London's grandiose Somerset House and is a visual delight for the senses.