TIM WALKER STORYTELLER: Fashion into Fairytales


Jonas Kesseler in blue spitfire, Glemham Hall, Suffolk, 2009

By Ruth Ansel

“For fashion photography to resonate, for people to believe in it, it has to be a real moment.” -- Tim Walker

The model-as-protagonist is the most vital component among the many that knit together to make a successful photograph says the photographic historian Robin Muir. She must in Walker’s words behave like a ‘silent movie actress’, who possesses a ‘sense of performance’. ‘You are persuading models to act; you try to show them where your inspiration comes from and hope that they understand it and relate to it. Then you all get lost in it…’ Tim Walker: Storyteller is a book about photographs that is made up of fictional narratives that turn fashion into fairy tales.Tim’s love of fashion as a means of realizing his dreams is all about telling a story. I believe every fashion shoot tells a story beyond the fashion. A story about a woman, a story about the time we live in, a story about longing and desire — in this instance a story about always seeing the world through the eyes of an irrepressible child. This process of reaching deep within his unconscious creates photographic magic. What Tim has is a simultaneous sense of elegance, wit, romance and daring. When you think all is light and sunny suddenly a surprisingly dark side emerges. A crying skeleton appears in a field of flowers with beautiful Malgosia Bela in a red wig. He conjours up all these moods with unerring intuive skill. One ingeniously crafted set after another appears in the midst of unlikely places. All this together with a ravishing palette of intensely saturated colors makes for a thrilling visual experience as the book unfolds from page to page.


Karlie Kloss on yellow brick road, Dior couture, East Sussex, 2010

In the last few years Tim has set out to explore a deliberate contrast between his subjects facing the lens in carefully arranged poses against simple backgrounds as opposed to his cinematic narratives. He is always sketching situations and scenes in his notebooks which soon come to life. He is able with a devoted team of makeup artists, painters, builders and stylists to realize his elaborate dreams– worthy of any great film director. What is amazing is that his sets are constructed life-size in real time and space.These are not manipulated images artificially created on the computer.


Tilda Swinton and aviator goggles, Yves St. Laurent, Reykjavik, Iceland, 2011

We had met briefly in New York in the mid-nineties when I worked at the Richard Avedon studio as Dick’s in-house designer and Tim was one of his lowly fourth assistants.Tim reminded me he used to silenty change the lightbulbs in my studio space and empty the “dust-bins” as he referred to the wastepaper baskets.


Malgosia Bela and Chi on motorway, Givenchy Couture, Cambridgeshire, 2010

As I recall we hardly exchanged a word, but Tim assures me we did, and continually teases me about my memory lapse. Soon after leaving the Avedon studio Tim became a creative force on the fashion scene contributing major portfolios to magazines like W, and American, British and Italian Vogue. Before a brief visit to London in the Fall of 2011, it was at the ICP Gallery’s opening celebrating Avedon’s latest fashion exhibition we really connected. Very soon after Tim asked me if I would be interested in designing his new book. I was thrilled and didn’t look back. At first it felt risky being that both of us are “hands on” kind of people working on two different continents. We knew we would have little chance to work side by side as the book progressed. Nevertheless the layouts took shape pretty quickly thanks to the computer so that everything came together with ease. The book turned out better than I could’ve imagined. It was the beginning of an ongoing alliance between a photographer and an art director that reflected our deeply held shared beliefs to never play it safe.I always believe it is the love of what you’re interested in pursuing that really matters. Without passion you cannot create something of value that truly connects with other people.Usually my experience is you never do it as well as you ought to do it—but every now and then there is an exception— and working on this book with Tim, this remarkable young master, has been that exception.

© 2013 All written content property of Ruth Ansel unless otherwise noted. © Images by Tim Walker.

Ruth Ansel made her debut as a designer as one of the youngest art directors in the history of magazines for Harper’s Bazaar in 1962. Ever since, she has pushed the boundaries of magazine design. Her Iris Nights lecture will take place on Thursday, August 8th, 2013. Learn more about Ansel on her official website, www.ruthansel.com.

See more of Tim Walkers Images in his book Tim Walker: Storyteller. To learn more about the photographer and his work visit his official website at www.timwalkerphotography.com.

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