Tim Walker: Wonderful Things at the V&A

Tim Walker, V&A, Photography

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I’m a huge fan of photographer Tim Walker, he is much more than just someone who snaps pretty pictures, he brings fashion alive through his magic storytelling that I just adore. To celebrate his fantastical imagination, the V&A has opened the largest exhibition feature his pictures to date, with more than 150 works inspired by the museum’s collections, with its new exhibit, Tim Walker: Wonderful Things.

The exhibition is open until March 8, and it is well worth a visit, especially if you are a fan of Tim Walker, as the exhibit really does showcase how the V&A’s collection has played a part in the photographer’s creative process over the last 25 years, as well as displaying 10 new photographic passion projects, all influenced by what Walker calls “treasures” of the V&A, including stained-glass windows, vivid Indian miniature paintings, jewelled snuffboxes, erotic illustrations, golden shoes, and a 65-metre-long photograph of the Bayeux Tapestry, the largest photograph in the museum’s collection.

If you are just a fan of photography exhibitions, I love delving into photographers back catalogue, you’ll be wowed by how this exhibition combines Walker’s whimsical captures alongside the incredible and monumental set designs of Shona Heath. This exhibition doesn’t just have photos displayed in frames, the 300 items on show, are surrounded by the V&A objects that inspired them, with short films, photographic sets and props, scrapbooks and sketches – all designed to take visitors on a journey through Walker’s enchanted world.

There are many highlights, from the first room where Tim Walker’s inventive fashion stories, whether surreal, lavish, humorous or touching, are displayed alongside the most beautiful portraits of famous faces from Cate Blanchett to Saoirse Ronan, as well as a whole wall dedicated to his muses, Tilda Swinton and Kate Moss.

I love how many of these images I recognised, admiring them for their fairytale-like feel and the awe-inspiring locations from Myanmar to Japan and Mexico, and all the time remembering that Tim Walker is a photographer who doesn’t do Photoshop, his images are beautifully crafted with crazy sets, incredible fashion from the likes of Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, and Comme des Garçons, as well as location. 

Once you’ve soaked up inspiration from Walker’s retrospective gallery you then you wander through ten evocative room sets displaying Walker’s new series of photographs inspired by the V&A, which are in stark contrast to the traditional bright-white gallery space of the first room, it is instead darker, filled with textures, colours and sounds.

What I will say, as well as looking at the all the awesome photography, don’t forget to look up, the sets that Shona Heath has made are incredible, from dragons to a safari of animals, and ghostly objects hanging from the ceiling to showcase his ‘Handle With Care’ series inspired by conservators at the museum and an Alexander McQueen gown all wrapped up with Karen Elson posing as a mannequin coming to life in the museum. This is also the spot where I bumped into Anna Wintour, sorry Anna again for barging into you.

Then there was the ‘Soldiers of Tomorrow’ images depicting eco-warriors featuring everything recycled, homemade and hand-knitted, and items like old ironing boards became shields, vacuum cleaners became madcap medieval instruments, as Walker took inspiration from the Bayeux Tapestry.

The angles, the styling, and the models used just makes this epic – I love these images so much.

I also loved the lady of the manor series featuring Tilda Swinton inspired by poet Dame Edith Sitwell captured at the magnificent gothic Renishaw Hall – the flamboyant wardrobe is everything and only Tilda could pull off this shoot.

What I think I loved about this exhibition is, how Tim Walker it was, and what I mean by that is it wasn’t stuffy, like some photography exhibitions can be, it really was a beautiful insight into his extraordinary creative process through his pictures, films, and photographic sets, that really brought his images to life.

Tim Walker: Wonderful Things at the V&A from September 21, 2019, to March 8, 2020.