"To me, the V&A has always been a palace of dreams – it's the most inspiring place in the world. (...) Many of the objects that I saw during my research at the museum made my heart swell and I wanted to try to create a photograph that would relate not only to the physical presence and beauty of that object, but also to my emotional reaction to it. Each new shoot is a love letter to an object from the V&A collection, and an attempt to capture my encounter with the sublime." Extract from Love Letter to the V&A, Tim Walker.
Three years ago, British fashion photographer Tim Walker was commissioned by the V&A Museum to create ten new photographic series inspired by objects in their collection. He had access to their whole archive and chose ten items from it in order to create what has become his biggest solo show to date, Wonderful Things. Anyone that knows the V&A can only imagine how hard it must have been to make that selection!
This photograph takes inspiration from a 19th century circular concave mirror originally belonging to renowned early photographers David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson (see installation shot). Hill and Adamson formed Scotland's first photographic studio and for early photographers like them, natural daylight was crucial to creating the perfect portrait: this mirror would have been used to reflect sunlight onto the faces of their sitters. Tim Walker's James Crewe, Fashion: Valentino Haute Couture, Dorset, 2018, shot with fish-eye lenses, framed in a circular frame with a domed glass, is presented in the museum as the matching half of the mirror, one almost feels that the photograph was born from it.
Tim was especially drawn to the moon-like shape of the mirror. The moon has always been a source of inspiration for him, as cited in the title of his recently released retrospective book, Shoot for the Moon. The phrase originated from a quote by American author Norman Vincent Peale: 'Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you will land among the stars.' This is a message that Tim Walker wants to share with all of us, as creatives around the world.
Born in England in 1970, Tim Walker's interest in photographs began at the Condé Nast library in London where he worked on the Cecil Beaton archive before taking up a place at Exeter College of Art to study photography. After graduating, he became assistant to Richard Avedon in New York before returning to England where he initially concentrated on portrait and documentary work for UK newspapers.
At the age of 25 Walker shot his first fashion story for Vogue, and has photographed for the British, Italian and American editions ever since. He has also contributed to Harpers Bazaar, W, i-D and Vanity Fair magazines, and advertising campaigns for brands such as Yohji Yamamoto, Guerlain and Dior Parfums.
His first major show was held at the Design Museum in London in 2008, coinciding with the publication of his first monograph Pictures. In November 2008 Walker received the Isabella Blow Award for Fashion Creators from The British Fashion Council and, in May 2009, he received an Infinity Award from The International Center of Photography, New York. In 2012 Tim opened a major mid-career retrospective at Somerset House in London which marked the launch of his second book Story Teller (Thames and Hudson, 2012). In 2019, he was the subject of a major solo exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the largest show the museum has ever held for a living artist. Walker's work is held in the permanent collections of both the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Portrait Gallery in London.