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.

Jimmy Colton takes 'making the cut' to a whole new level!

Jimmy Colton, January 14 - © Unique for the Space

Last Thursday, our Space was graced with a pair of the best eyes in the business - Jimmy ('only my mother calls me James') Colton - photo editor for Sports Illustrated.

Jimmy Colton, January 14, 2010 - © Unique for the Space

Jimmy prepped us for his presentation by informing us that during the Olympics his job entailed reviewing 319,000 unedited images to narrow down to 70.

Jimmy Colton, January 14, 2010 - © Unique for the Space

That's right: 319,000>70. Crazy, right? Then he showed us the 70 or so images - and he proved his point! When we first met Jimmy at our SPORT opening, he told a wonderful story about how he sees his work as digging for the jewel in the lightbox.

Jimmy showed us how SI became the source of the 'photo finish' for the famous Phelps 100m race. In this case the jewel was not too hard to find.

Jimmy Colton on the Phelps 100m victory - © Unique for the Space

Jimmy Colton on Phelps' 100m victory - © Unique for the Space

Each of his presentations were impeccably produced and superbly scored. The Olympics, Super Bowl, and my favorite, the Ooohs and Ahhhs reel.

Jimmy Colton - Ooohs and Ahhhs - © Unique for the Space

As is often the case, Jimmy's lecture was attended by some of our other IRIS Nights stars, on this occasion including Lucy Nicholson...

Lucy Nicholson at Jimmy Colton Lecture - © Unique for the Space

...and Rick Rickman...

Rick Rickman @ Jimmy Colton - © Unique for the Space

...and Manuello (Manny) Paganelli...

Manuello Paganelli @ Jimmy Colton - © Unique for the Space

Needless to say, after the lecture Jimmy was swarmed by appreciative guests.

Jimmy Colton after the lecture © Unique for the Space

Many guests asked Jimmy to sign the complimentary issues of Sports Illustrated he brought along as lecture favors!

Jimmy Colton © Unique for the Space

Always the gentleman - he was happy to oblige. Thank you Mr. Colton. The pleasure was ours!

Maisel makes your mind spin with Black Maps

Not many of our guest lecturers visit the Space to present a collection of images focusing on environmentally-polluted sites and then disassociate their work from the larger effort of global advocacy...especially in regards to our world's water crisis.

But in the case of New York-born Princeton and Harvard grad David Maisel, when it comes to his photography, his work neither represents answers to a conflict nor offers any resolution other than a sense of poetic truth.

...if this is your position David, then thou ART as wise as thou ART beautiful!

Maisel's aerial photographs of sites where the natural ecological order has been eradicated are images of a stunning atrocity.

At first glance, you see a brilliant photograph of splattered colors,

but upon further examination, the photo actually depicts a man-made sea of toxic minerals destroying our environment.

A bittersweet presentation, Maisel's work - titled Black Maps  - is a visually emotional creation that does more than just leave an impression...

...it speaks to the soul.

If you missed the lecture, this is unfortunately one time when you won't be able to watch it online.

However, we will be posting an audio file and a transcript,

as well as a gallery of more photos.

But you must see the work...

...it's truly unique.

Afterward, David was extremely genial and approachable.

He answered questions, chatted with guests...

...signed some copies of his book Oblivion ...

then bid us all goodbye and good night.

(All photos © Unique for the Space)

Larry Towell: 'A Story Is The People In Front Of You'

Larry Towell's life is all about human beings and being human (his business card even says "human being") so it should come as no surprise that he incorporated those themes into last night's IRIS Nights lecture.

The first thing Larry did during the opening of his lecture last was explain why he would not be doing much speaking during his presentation. The reason? The hiccups. Larry explained that he suffered with the hiccups for 2 weeks earlier this summer and decided to put together a photographic slideshow, complete with pre-recorded audio, just in case there was a sudden resurgence of his hiccups while he was up on stage.

Some of the multi-talented photojournalist's slideshows consisted of his poetry and guitar-playing which narrated the photos with forceful artistry.

Larry said that he sometimes collects the ambient sound of places uses that as a soundtrack to his slideshow.

You can hear this natural soundtrack in his series dedicated to the Mennonites.

The Magnum photographer has photographed people all over the globe and spent a chunk of his time talking about his photo series from Palestine. Larry reminded us that "a story is the people in front of you."

Larry, who studied visual arts in college, pointed out: "When you're studying art you're made to believe that you're the center of the universe. But when you actually go out into the universe, you realize that it revolves around you ...and the people that are in front of you become the story." In other words, it really is all about human beings!

Larry's most personal slideshow came at the end of his talk when he showed a series of photographs that focused on the most important people in his life: his wife and children. The beautiful black and white images show the family frolicking in nature as well around their quaint country home.

During the Q&A Larry revealed how he goes about establishing a relationship with his subjects: it takes time. For example, the project with the Mennonites, who rarely allow themselves to be photographed, took him 10 years and 3000 roles of film to complete!

Congratulations, Larry, on a great presentation - and no hiccups!

(All images by Unique for the Space)

Poetic Photography: Lecture With Paul Lange

IRIS Nights lecturer Paul Lange - pictured here in front of his stunning picture of Venus Williams - gave an impressive presentation on the art and technique of photography last night.

Some of the photos on the screen looked more like paintings or digitally constructed portraits then the straight film or digital photography which they truly are. But as Lange pointed out, that was his goal. He manipulated the photos during exposure in-camera by simply experimenting with chemical processing methods.

"A photo is not just a model posing. I want my photographs to be like paintings," said Lange. "I want them to be long living."

He even went into detail explaining how a photo could be double exposed, cross processed or dye transferred - terms that had all the non-photographers struggling to keep up.

"It's fun just playing with the rules. They work more often then they don't work so the key is to just try it," said Lange in reference to his experimental work.

Lange's diverse career led him to the world of fashion, photographing top models and celebrities from around the globe. He combined his fine art training with the fashion staples of good hair, makeup and perfect lighting to create his unique and polished style. Lange still creates all of his photographs in-camera and does not digitally alter them in post-production.

Lange explained that digital filters don't have the poetry that film does. "There is a translucent quality that you get by chance with film..." said Lange passionately, "otherwise it is too uniform."

Lange kept coming back to ideas of mystery, chance, passion and poetry relying on the imagery of a 'paint-like quality' to describe his photographic style.

His unique photographs were not the sole reason this night was different from our other lectures; last night was also the first time the Annenberg Space for Photography held two lectures by a photographer in one evening.

The night was so successful that we hope to do more double-header lectures in the future, giving our guests twice the opportunity to attend!

Thank you Paul Lange for giving two lovely presentations!

(All lecture photos by Unique for the Space)

Watch Our New Iris Nights Video

Over the last four years, we've had close to 200 amazing lecturers participate in Iris Nights. Most of those lectures are available to watch on our website - for free! We've just completed a brand new highlights reel (if you will) of just some of the countless absorbing moments we've captured during these talks. Click "Read More" to watch the video. Iris Nights - the compelling stories behind the remarkable images!

Brewer's Tubular Zen

Living legend Art Brewer graced our Space Thursday night and was one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. He was totally down-to-earth, mellow, funny...and he actually showed up with a crew!
Art Brewer 1/21/10 © Unique for the Space

The last time we had so many people in the green room (really our Reading Room) was when David Hume Kennerly brought his whole family along to man his book-selling table!

After a brief intro to the intro by Annenberg Foundation Exec Director Leonard Aube, who spoke about the unexpected success we've had with our IRIS Nights lectures, Art came out, sat down and starting rolling out waves of images and stories for our delight.

Many of the pictures he showed were dominated by cascading walls of blue...Art Brewer © Unique for the Space

Others showed the secret inner life of tuberiders...
Art Brewer © Unique for the Space

And some were portraits of the many surfers that are Art's real 'crew' - many of whom he has known since he started shooting waves as a teen!
Art Brewer © Unique for the Space

Despite the driving rain outside, the house was full! Many of the guests seemed to be off-duty surfers coming to check in on their pal. And one or two of his photos actually had some land in them!

But the majority of what we saw were these incredible shots of little humans braving giant waves - accompanied by some incredible stories of the guy in the water shooting them!

Afterwards Art graciously took questions (and generously gave answers) to the faithful assembly...

...and then sat and signed books, meeting folks and cracking jokes.

Here he is signing a vintage issue of Surfer - the magazine that published his first cover shot when he was 16 years old.

Dude...how rad is that? (sorry...I had to!)

(all pictures © Unique for the Space)

National Geographic's Griffin packs the Space!

Over the course of the current exhibition's IRIS Nights lecture series, we've had an incredible opportunity to get to know and love the staff of one of our favorite magazines - National Geographic .

The behind-the-scenes stories of how NatGeo  photographers capture those unparalleled moments of our changing world almost rivals the wonder of viewing the photographs published in the magazine.

So it comes as no surprise that our final executive guest lecturer from National Geographic , Director of Photography David Griffin...

...was greeted by a VERY full house last Thursday at the Space.

David delivered that sought-after narrative, bringing us inside National Geographic  and answered questions from the audience including the ultimate...how to become a National Geographic  photographer?

Wallis Annenberg, Neil Leifer,

Lauren Greenfield,

and Michael Robinson Chávez

were all in attendance at the Space for David's lecture and multimedia presentation.

Along with the first-hand stories from the front lines,

David brought video footage and behind-the-scenes stills of NatGeo  photographers chasing the moments,

capturing the extraordinary,

and covering over 100 years of published issues.

The lecture was at times funny,

at times frightening,

at times instructive,

and all in all, totally awe-inspiring.

Thank you David Griffin!

(All images © Unique for the Space)

O'Meara Brings Volcanoes to Life


Stephen James O'Meara, one of our Extreme Exposure featured photographers, was the first IRIS Nights lecturer in our new series. O'Meara and his wife Donna (who graced us with her presence at our opening night) have lived on a volcano for the past 30 years. You read right - they not only take pictures of volcanoes erupting around the globe, they LIVE atop an active one.

Stephen's lecture was called "Does the Moon Affect Volcanoes on Earth?" - which if you attended you now know is not such a wild subject. Stephen is an animated speaker who is incredibly inspired by his studies. He also happens to be an astronomer, so no one could be better prepared to answer this question. Stephen explained how the Moon affects tidal flows of water, but also of the Earth crust itself.

He went into great detail about how the tides of the Earth's crust rise and fall at regular interval, but when the Earth is closest to the Moon (perigee) those tides are more rapid and when the Earth is farthest from the Moon (apogee) the tides of the crust grow more slow.

The best part was how he demonstrated this change by condensing the daily and monthly tidal intervals by breathing in and out. It was an incredibly simplified demonstration but it made very clear what the effect Moon has on tides (both water and crust) and therefore on the probability of volcanic eruptions.

Steve seemed like he was about to erupt a few times!

It was a great pleasure listening to such an informed and inspiring individual. I can't believe we've never had a Vulcanologist/Astronomer lecture here before!

View Finder: Brian Bowen Smith Lecture

What did our IRIS Nights attendees think of Brian Bowen Smith? Here are some of their thoughts:

"He was so personable and such a good speaker. I was amazed by him!"
--Jesse Ruoff, regular IRIS Nights attendee, apparel designer

"To see all these pictures in an exhibit is pretty amazing. It is just beautiful the way it is laid out. I will definitely come again."
-- Ariana Trinneer, guest of lecturer Brian Bowen Smith

"The Space is terrific the way it shows photography. You get enough to make it significant but you don't get too overwhelmed"
--Marshall Feldman, first time visitor

"I love this place. I can benefit a lot from it because it really contributes to me as a professional but also as a person. I think so highly of the Annenberg Space for Photography. There is no other museum like it!"
-- Nini Valentina, regular Photo Space visitor, professional make-up artist

"I think the space is state-of-the-art! [Wallis Annenberg] went all out. Her generosity of spirit is so profound. It's such an invitation to the public.... Bottom line is that I am really impressed."
-- Dawn Moreno-Freedman, first time visitor

(All lecture images by Unique for the Space)

For more about Brian visit his website

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