Art


Behind-the-Scenes of Tim Walker: Wonderful Things

Category Title


Feature Title

Turn sound on/off above

Art


Behind-the-Scenes of Tim Walker: Wonderful Things

Victoria and Albert Museum, London

21 September 2019 –
8 March 2020

With an exhibition design masterminded by Shona Heath to hold the viewer’s gaze, Tim Walker: Wonderful Things might just change the way you think about all fashion photography – much like Walker’s photographs have themselves altered perceptions of fashion over his two decades working behind the lens.

Zo, Kiran Kandola, Firpal, Yusuf, Ravyanshi Mehta, Jeenu Mahadevan, Chawntell Kulkami, & Radhika Nair © Tim Walker Studio

Alice-not-in-Wonderland tumbles out of a chimney in Vivienne Westwood platforms. A red-haired bride gazes out from a field of roses, stalked by a giant skeleton. Hokusai’s towering wave rushes through a living room, dancing with a sakura tree to create splashes of pink cherry blossom on the carpet. When it comes to the fantastical deep dive of any single Tim Walker photograph, the phrase ‘it takes a village’ – or several – comes to mind.


It’s this core spirit of collaboration that brings Walker’s imagination to life and will make the Victoria and Albert Museum’s forthcoming exhibition on the photographer’s work feel unique.

Dress from ‘The Horn of Plenty’ Autumn/Winter collection Alexander McQueen (1969-2010), 2009 © Victoria and Albert Museum

Sarah Grace Wallerstedt, Fashion: Moncler, 2018 © Tim Walker Studio

“With the design, I hope to immerse people in different physical worlds… so that they can transport themselves to other places and wander in their own minds.”

“I used to think I was quite a creative person,” says Susanna Brown, co-curator of the show and Curator of Photographs at the V&A, “and then I got to know Tim and Shona [Heath] better.” Heath is Walker’s long-time co-conspirator in incredibly ambitious image making, a set designer who provides so much more than background dressing. Her work with Tim Walker, as with other eminent photographers such as Paolo Roversi and Jack Davison, is rooted in a sense of childlike imagination.


In an exhibition where Walker and Heath’s creative process will be front and centre, Brown insisted that Heath was the only person who could design the exhibition – a challenge the set designer was nervous but thrilled to take on. “With the design, I hope to immerse people in different physical worlds,” says Heath. “So that they can transport themselves to other places and wander in their own minds.”

The Peacock Skirt – Aubrey Beardsley, 1894 © Victoria and Albert Museum

Duckie Thot, Aubrey's shadow. Fashion: Saint Laurent, 2017 © Tim Walker Studio

“In a never-before-seen twist, each photograph will have begun life with an object at the V&A that Walker found to be inspiring, which will be displayed alongside it.”

For Wonderful Things, Walker has created 10 different photographic worlds that will be split into 10 rooms, specially designed by Heath. In a never-before-seen twist, each photograph will have begun life with an object at the V&A that Walker found to be inspiring, which will be displayed alongside.


Walker, who has called the museum “the most inspiring place in the world,” dug into the treasure trove of the V&A’s 145 galleries, uncovering priceless artefacts hidden in storage and even, recounts Brown, scaling the roof of the South Kensington site at one point. “A colleague might open a cupboard or drawer in one of our storerooms, and open a box, and inside that box is another box and inside that box is some tiny treasure wrapped in tissue paper. Tim will see that thing, and often within seconds he’s developed an idea for a picture or a shoot – he’ll be in that storeroom sketching out the photograph that he can imagine in his mind.”


While the museum objects that have inspired the photographs will punctuate the show – items from medieval stained-glass panels to Victorian watercolours – at the heart of the experience is a tribute to the whole of fashion image making that goes beyond the photographer and subject.

Tilda Swinton, 2018 © Tim Walker Studio

Krishna and Indra, about 1590 © Victoria and Albert Museum

Working for the first time within the confines of the exhibition space, Heath admits she couldn’t “create on the run” as she normally does but was able to use those limitations to find boundless creative sparks. “Normally, a strong part of my creative aesthetic is the moment of chaos on a shoot where really good things can happen – the unfinished stages often inform the finished product.


“These stages are not there for me in exhibitions, which makes me nervous! That said, it also makes me think very, very deeply about the design and really conjure up the finished result in my mind and try to understand what [the visitors'] reaction might be.”

Tobias and Sara on their Wedding Night, about 1520 © Victoria and Albert Museum

Despite the need for careful planning, Heath’s exhibition design – together with a bespoke soundscape (courtesy of Samad Boughalam from Cadavre Exquis) and technical plans translated from Heath’s atmospheric drawings (by 3D Technical Designer Kit Stiby Harris) – gives the feeling of an exhibition constantly in shift and flux: like stepping through the looking glass into a Tim Walker fantasy land, but also like stepping onto a Tim Walker set.


That’s not to say the photographer and set designer are willing to reveal all secrets – rest assured, spectators will still have their curiosities stirred as they ask how these photographs came to be. “When you’re on set you realise it’s a huge team of people, and all of those people are giving [their] 1000%,” says Brown. “Because they really believe in the magic that’s being made. They really believe in the make-believe.”


Introduce your children to the joys of live music at some of the UK’s greatest concert halls...

Royal Albert Hall

Kensington Gore, South Kensington, London SW7 2AP

Royal Albert Hall

Kensington Gore, South Kensington, London SW7 2AP

Royal Albert Hall

Kensington Gore, South Kensington, London SW7 2AP


You might also like…

Madrid, Until 29 September 2019

Velázquez, Rembrandt, Vermeer. Parallel visions

Manchester, Until 29 September 2019

© 2019 Bon Vivant All rights reserved