At present one corner of the V&A has been transformed into Wonderland. Tim Walker’s exhibition, ‘Wonderful Things’ houses a vast portfolio of his photography, ranging in style from sharp and stark portrayals of singular subjects to impossibly complex ethereal fantasies.
‘Wonderful Things’ is an amalgamation of the fantastic, otherworldly and extemporaneously strange. Walker moves beyond the realm of visual perception into a place beyond, in which imagination leaps from subject in scenes of woodland faeries, supersized flora and fauna and photos superimposed onto others - where humans subjects evolve into centaurian creatures.
A fashion photographer by trade, Walker has spent the past 15 years turning photoshoots into highly intricate performances, in which nothing is ever grand enough. As he said in his own words, “the giant pink elephant simply had to be bigger!” Such a sentiment encapsulates the style portrayed in his wonderfully lengthy and meandering exhibition.
Each photo tells its own unique story, and such careful construction only serves to further amaze when one realizes there are 150 present in the exhibition. It almost seems too grandiose to comprehend.
Many well-known faces are on display throughout, each captured in such a representative way. Walker says he keeps his subject’s comfort at the forefront of his mind, and it is through such a relaxation they are able to fully connect with the camera, and him, to produce something magical.
One such example is a photo of Willam DeFoe, dressed in black and in front of a black background - his left hand and face the only body parts present. A white plume of smoke clouds his visage, and what character - furrowed brow and nefarious glare stare expectantly.
On the other end of the spectrum is the array of high-fashion photography done for Vogue throughout the years. Beautiful gowns (that are more accurately called works of art) by the likes of Alexander McQueen, Comme des Garçons and Balenciaga are worn by world-famous models. Karen Elson, particularly, has worked with Walker to create breathtaking works, often gravity-defying.
Bridging the gap between haute-couture fashion photography to whimsical forest scenes is the masterful curation of the exhibition, done in part by Walker’s long-time collaborator, Shoana Heath, one of Britain’s greatest set designers.
Wandering from room to room, the carefully constructed scenes change like phase shifts - and much in the same fashion, the entire change in form somehow makes sense. It functions to leave one in a state of dizzying awe, as if miraculously transfixed behind one of the many frames.
Leaving the stark white atmosphere of the premiere space, through a thick black curtain, it’s a step out of reality and into fantasy. Props from Walker’s previous shoots, paper maché tigers and giraffes, hang from the ceilings, dipping over the promontory as if to say hello. In a pink wallpapered box, right out of a dollhouse, videos of Walker’s shoots play on 1970s television sets, complete with specially produced music to go along.
It is through this arrangement that one falls pleasantly into Walker’s daydream, now indistinguishable from reality. As he says himself: “Romance, mystery, mischief … the photograph is a manifestation of your psyche. You have to honour the camera with utter truth or it won’t work.”