In the dark wake of London Fashion Week, October starts a several-month long drought in the fashion world. Aside from November’s British Fashion Awards, there is little in the way of excitement in an industry which thrives on the constant anticipation of the next ‘big thing’. Tim Walker’s Story Teller exhibition-which has taken residence at the capital’s Somerset House- provides the thirsty members of the ‘fash-pack’ with a smattering of respite from their uninspiring winter routine. Its opening falls flawlessly in line with the publication of his new book, ‘STORY TELLER’, published by Thames and Hudson.

Running from October 18th to January 27th, the British-born photographer gives his work a break from the tiresome life of the world’s leading magazine pages: British, French, American and Italian Vogue, Vanity Fair and W magazine to name a few, and showcases it free of charge for us paltry civilians.

It would be disappointing for Walker’s muses to be any less than iconic. The man is not one to shy away from the established greats in an attempt to prove himself at the cutting edge; with appearances from Agyness Deyn, Kate Moss, Stella Tennant and Karlie Kloss in the compact and clinical East Wing galleries of Somerset House. Controversy is unsurprisingly the name of the game, with gloomy undertones of death, peril, and the impermeable nature of beauty diffusing through every shot.

Embedded in his work is the juxtaposition of the strong and the vulnerable, realised with the help of iconic models against frail backgrounds, stuck in a tale of danger and helplessness. On the whitewashed gallery walls a meandering scrawl reads, ‘the editorial spreads of modern fashion magazines allow the photographer to construct fictive worlds which unfold page after page like a series of stills from unrealised films. His world is enchanting and theatrical and impossible.’

Not known for subtlety, Walker creates scenes of imminent disaster using giant wasps and crocodiles as props to disturb the high-fashion peace in familiar, domestic spaces.  Speaking of some of his photographs, he explains how ‘lingering over them is a sense that in an instant the house of cards might collapse, the confection melt, the harmony pulled by a dangerous undertow.’

In other shoots there’s a fusion of make-believe and reality:  live leopards and giant, life-like replicas of Humpty Dumpty, porcelain dolls that upset the natural beauty and serenity of the English countryside. A blend of themes permeates through the fashion too as Chanel, Valentino and Dior haute couture are showcased with a sprinkling of the high street- American Apparel and John Rocha.

Walker speaks of his work as far from a mere one-step process. He imagines himself climbing a ladder of the unknown until ‘everything comes together and you look through the viewfinder, there is a window to something magical. You see something you have never seen.’

The masthead for the exhibition is the ‘Like a doll’ campaign shot for Italian Vogue earlier in 2012 which has become synonymous with his name.

At Somerset House, supported by Mulberry.

18 October 2012 – 27 January 2013

Daily 10.00-18.00, Until 21.00 on Thu 29 Nov & 6, 13, 20 Dec

(24 & 31 Dec: 10.00-16.00, 25 & 26 Dec: closed, 1 Jan: 12.00-18.00)

East Wing Galleries, East Wing

Free admission

Words: Hannah Symons


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