Tim Walker: Wonderful Things review, V&A

For the past few weeks, The V&A, or Victoria and Albert Museum, has been celebrating the life and work of one of the nation’s great fashion photographers, Tim Walker. Over the course of twenty-five years spent in the industry, Walker has amassed a catalogue of whimsical dreamscapes that have captivated the readership of Vogue, M, and Love magazines.

“The picture you end up taking becomes a souvenir brought back from a daydream”

– Tim Walker

The V&A invites guests to take a candid peek behind the curtain into the creative process of one of the most inventive photographers of our time. The largest-ever exhibition of Walker’s work to date, Wonderful Things incorporates over 300 different photographs, props, short films and special installations.

Mesmerising portraiture

Portrait photography from Tim Walker: Wonderful Things, at Tate Modern

Beneath the glamour of Walker’s fantastical world of multicoloured cats, translucent dragons and fairytale costumes is an undeniable eye for portraiture. This shines through when observing his work with famous muses and collaborators like David Attenborough, David Hockney, Nicole Kidman and James Spencer. In an intimate exchange that Walker has affectionately dubbed ‘the handshake’, he peels back the psychological layers of his sitter, revealing the fascinating vulnerabilities and internal worlds that lie hidden beneath the surface.

“Sometimes pictures and photographs are more like people than people themselves”

– Cecil Beaton

However, the V&A has by no means neglected the Dali-esque imagery that Walker is so widely known for. The first room alone is adorned with 100 otherworldy photographs from projects old and new, making quite the first impression on those who are unfamiliar with the surreal, mysterious and at times even humorous ways that Walker blends fantasy and reality.

Tim Walker & the V&A

Photograph of landscaped garden from Tim Walker: Wonderful Things, at V&A

Tim Walker enjoys a unique relationship with the V&A, calling it “one of the most inspiring places in the world”. It is this unique relationship that forms the crux of the exhibition.

For the past three years, Walker pored over the V&A’s archives, visiting its storerooms, meeting with technicians and curators, climbing through its underground Victorian passageways and even scaling its roof. The treasures that he found in its collection became the inspiration for 10 all-new photographic commissions, each inspired by a different artifact.

“Each picture is an attempt to capture the emotions I felt on meeting these objects, and the stories they conjured in my mind. As I wandered through the museum, I imagined how it must have felt for the archeologist Howard Carter when he first encountered the sublime contents of the tomb of Tutankhamun”

Throughout the exhibition, Walker uses the rustic beauty of historical artifacts to great effect, shining new light on exclusive pieces of contemporary fashion from the likes of Halpern and Dolce & Gabbana. In his ‘Illumination’ series with American model, Sara Grace Wallerstedt, he employs the vibrant colours of 16th century stained glass windows, whilst his ‘Cloud 9’ series takes reference from watercolors of Krishna and Indra.

Lil’ Dragon

Lil' Dragon by Tim Walker

Lil’ Dragon by Tim Walker

Of all the exhibition’s historic callbacks, few made as lasting a mark as Lil’ Dragon, which draws inspiration from the intricate details of a Chinese snuffbox.

This unique interpretation of the Chinese high court into contemporary high fashion is sure to leave a lasting impression. The wider fairytale journey that surrounds this singular moment is definitely not to be missed either. Visitors will be able to enjoy the work of a photographer who possesses a rare sensitivity to beauty and colour, as well as an unmatched ability to tell fantastical stories.