“Everything is contrived; nothing is real. You try to make your own real moments. And then you go home and make sense of it”.
After a three-year BA Honors degree in Photography at Exeter College of Art, Walker was awarded third prize as The Independent Young Photographer of The Year. Walker worked as a freelance photographic assistant in London before moving to New York City as a full-time assistant to fashion and portrait photography Richard Avedon. At the age of 25 he shot his first fashion story for Vogue, and has photographed for the British, Italian, and American editions ever since. Tim Walker’s photographs have entranced the readers of Vogue, month by month, for over a decade. Extravagant staging and romantic motifs characterise his unmistakable style.
“When I was at college, the idea of fashion was more immediate to me, whereas art photography, the depth of it, was a different thing. Storytelling – fanciful storytelling – can only be told through fashion photography. It’s the perfect way to play with fantasy and dreams.” “Even the pictures I was doing at college – a little narrative based on a butterfly catcher, or a chimney sweep – the images were always telling stories. They were all scenarios and moods which I storyboarded and worked through – it’s exactly what I do now.” 
In Tim Walker’s photography nothing is as you might expect. He is an expert in creating fictitious images, conjuring up childlike dreamscapes and dark fantasy worlds with story book narratives. “It’s just innate.” Walker says of his style, pinpointing Albert Lamorisse’s book and film ‘Le Ballon Rouge’ as an early influence. The 1956 short film tells the tale of a boy, played by Lamorisse’s son, and his animate red balloon, capturing the spirit of childhood innocence. In 2009, Tim Walker shot the fragrance campaign for Miss Dior Cherie. The campaign features model Maryna Linchuk, elevated by a cluster of balloons and seemingly suspended over the city of Paris, not unlike the final scene of Le Ballon rouge.
Walker reminds us that it is perfectly acceptable to escape to a world of dreams, fairy tales and imagination. When I look at his work, I can relate to it and momentarily wish that I had been to that place, I want to step into the frame, into Walker’s wonderland.
It is clear that his time working with Richard Avedon has inspired his photography. In the 1957 musical comedy Funny Face, the role of Dick Avery is modelled on photographer Avedon. He was renowned for blending elegant glamour with a fun sense of spontaneity, often bringing fashion photography out of the studio and onto the streets.
One could say that Walker’s work connotes the fleetingness of youth and beauty as his photographs are often rooted in nostalgia. Walker explains “these photographs are rather romantic visions of an England past” His inspiration, he says, comes from his childhood imagination and memories. Reminiscent of a childhood spent dressing up, dragging family heirlooms from the attic to the bottom of the garden to furnish tree-lined ballrooms.  But, one senses that the past isn’t merely sentimental for him; it is also political. ‘I’m resisting proceeding without caution,’ he says. ‘Culture and society are moving so quickly that I think we need to ask whether in throwing out the rubbish so readily, there might be a few gems in there that we’re not quite ready to get rid of. Like femininity. Or innocence. Or our sense of wonderment.’ 
Having studied constructed images or ‘tableaux vivants’ (‘living picture’ in French), for Part five of the course module, I compare American photographer Jeff Wall, to British photographer Tim Walker. Both have become known for collaborating with a team of actors, models, painters, builders and technicians to construct elaborate sets full of ingenious props. Wall’s images often appear as stage sets portraying intense drama, often with an assumed degree of spontaneity. Whereas Walker’s sets are fantastical, he changes the scale of his props, to extremes. For example, a giant-sized doll treads on the toes of the model. Like Wall, his attention to detail is commendable, but it is Walker’s unusual locations, the poses, garments and make-up worn by the models that tell the story – there is expression and emotion. In his wonderful book “Story Teller”, Walker has included two pages from his scrapbook showing the thought process and planning that went into the series. However he does not reveal any further clues as to how the amazing sequences came to life.
Renowned for his fashion shots on the glossy pages of Vogue magazine, Walker’s work is a mix of fashion and design and takes you to a place that is a visual delight. I am not interested in high-end fashion or which famous designer the label is attached to, but I adore looking at his pictures. I guess that is the hook, it’s what sells the goods, but more importantly it’s what connects his photography with his audience. Fashion photography, unlike fine art or documentary photography, has been classed as commercial, not creative. Its function is to promote the sale of expensive and exclusive high fashion garments. Tim Walker’s beautiful book will not answer the question “Is fashion art?”, but it certainly pushes the boundaries.
1. & 2. Walker, T. Tim Walker’s fantasy World. Article by Tilly Macalister-Smith. January 27th 2016. Available from: http://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/creative-class/inside-tim-walkers-fantasy-world %5BAccessed 8th January 2017]
3. Walker, T. Tim Walker’s Thrilling Fashion Photographs Go on Show. Article by By Penny Martin. The Telegraph. September 2012. Available from: http://www.timwalkerphotography.com/articles [Accessed 8th January 2017]
The Red Balloon/Le Balon Rouge. (Albert Lamorisse, 1956). Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWRbCGa2gqY [Accessed 8th January 2017)