I had the greatest fortune to be able to catch the wonderful Tim Walker exhibition of fashion photographs at Somerset House in London last week. The show, which had just opened, was so incredibly beautiful, and the execution so astonishing, that people walked around in mute awe. You could barely hear the exclamation marks that were dropped, one by one, as people passed the extraordinary portraits.
For those of who you aren't familiar with Mr Walker, he's one of fashion's most creative photographers. Where a normal Vogue shoot may take a day or two and a team of perhaps ten people, Tim Walker's shoots are epic productions that rival a Martin Scorsese film. A normal day might involve staging a shoot in an art deco mansion in India that hasn't been used since the days of the Raj. (And flying a team of costume designers, stylists, models, make-up artists and assistants over to help with the set construction.) A 'quiet' day may involve dressing someone like Alexander McQueen up in full 18th century costume and shooting him in a derelict warehouse in the East End. His work is magical, ethereal, artistic and romantic. It's the stuff of Lewis Carroll, J.K. Rowling and C.S. Lewis. With a little Cecil Beaton thrown in. One checklist of requirements for a thirty-eight page Vogue shoot called 'Fashion Pantomime' included 80 white rabbits, 20 ballerinas, 17 mirrored geese, 250 ostrich eggs (sprayed gold), a box of giant plastic hands, 20 Christmas trees and a Rolls-Royce. (It was cheaper, Vogue discovered, to buy a Rolls-Royce than to hire one especially for the shoot, because no-one had any idea of what exactly Walker might do with it.) It is a credit to Vogue that they didn't baulk at the cost. They knew they would be rewarded with a series of spectacular images.
PS The venue, Somerset House, was amazing too. I had no idea such an architectural gem existed.