In 1972, Associated Press photographer Nick Ut snapped a nine-year-old naked girl fleeing the Napalm bombing with a group of children. In a single frame, ‘The Terror of War’ captured the horrors and human loss of the Vietnam war. The Pulitzer Prize-winning image helped change the course of history, sparking public outrage around the world. Shortly after the image was published, the war came to an end.
The power of a photograph to influence humanity’s collective consciousness cannot be understated. And, Émeric Lhuisset’s work is a critique of a global culture where fact and truth are in danger of losing all meaning. The French visual artist would like to tell an alternative story to contemporary photojournalism and its often sensationalized images of war and migrants, shocking at first yet quickly vanishing from memory. He wants to use the medium of photography to tell real stories of people – displaced people, the migrant, the refugee, the immigrant, the émigré.
Image maker, explorer, wanderer, dreamer – Tim Walker’s photography is about elaborate staging and romantic motifs. He creates fairy-tale worlds, magical sets, then turns them on their heads. Spanning some 25 years, his is a fascinating body of work captured in an enchanting exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
‘Tim Walker: Wonderful Things’ is as much about Walker’s work as his relation to the gallery hosting this exhibition – for he has formed an intimate conversation with the V&A. Walker once called the museum ‘a place for dreams’, noting that the eclectic collection here has long resonated with him. ‘The V&A is the most inspiring place in the world,’ says one of the most successful fashion photographers of his generation.
For 25 years Walker has photographed models, celebrities and artists. His work appears in Vogue, W, i-D, AnOther and LOVE. He certainly has some favourite muses – Tilda Swinton features frequently and the photographs of the actress are some of his most powerful.
This is the largest-ever exhibition of Walker, though don’t expect a straightforward retrospective. There are plenty of his well-known photos here, but more exciting are the new works informed by the V&A’s collection. In preparation, Walker spent a year exploring the archives, rummaged through the maze of the V&A’s 145 galleries. He scaled the roof of the west London site, and the labyrinth of Victorian passages below in search of arts, ideas and objects to inspire a new body of work.
Amongst his finds are stained-glass windows, vivid Indian miniature paintings, jewelled snuffboxes, erotic illustrations, golden shoes, and a 65-metre-long photograph of the Bayeux Tapestry. This curious collection, also on display, have informed his narrative to form ten of the main installations in the exhibition.
Walker believes what happens in his artificial, staged worlds have to seem as real as possible for the photograph to be believable, and to resonate with us on a visceral level. His is, therefore, a very human brand of fantasy. Yet these are grand ideas and the complex production requires creative help. For the V&A, Walker worked with one of his frequent collaborators, the set designer Shona Heath, to form these ethereal settings.
‘Each new shoot is a love letter to an object from the V&A collection, and an attempt to capture my encounter with the sublime,’ says Walker. ‘For me, beauty is everything. I’m interested in breaking down the boundaries that society has created, to enable more varied types of beauty and the wonderful diversity of humanity to be celebrated.’ Preparing for this exhibition, he admits, has pushed him into new territories. ‘It is very exciting, and I’m at a stage in my life where I feel brave enough to do that.’
Access to a decent smartphone and an Instagram account has made photographers out of many of us. And we need talents like Tim Walker to remind us all that great image-making isn’t a matter of a good lens and photoshop skills. Timeless photographs – from Man Ray to Lee Miller to Cecil Beaton (whose work inspired Walker) and Richard Avedon (for whom he was an assistant) are about constructing images, choreographing a stage, narrating a story. These are moving images captured in a still moment.
Ultimately, ‘Tim Walker: Wonderful Things’ is a meditation on the beauty of the imagination. And much like the V&A, each room unravels a new and wondrous world.
Tim Walker: Wonderful Things is on at the V&A from 21 September 2019 – 8 March 2020
Los Angeles was a kind of utopian dream in the mid-twentieth century. The sunny southern Californian city had attracted an open-minded set – experimental filmmakers, independent artists, writers and patrons of design came here for it offered freedom of expression. This coupled with urban growth and industrial expansion led to a period of exceptional architectural innovation.
Marvin Rand was there to capture this spirit. Throughout the post-war period, the native Angeleno photographed the buildings of Richard Neutra, Craig Ellwood, John Lautner, Louis Kahn, Frank Lloyd Wright and Rudolph Schindler. He also played a crucial role in helping shape the mid-century Californian modern style, as explored in a new book by Phaidon California Captured.
Rand’s career began in advertising in the 1950s, and it was his friend the design historian Esther McCoy who encouraged him to venture into architectural photography. He enjoyed a close friendship with many of these architectural greats including Craig Ellwood. Some of Rand’s best work includes Ellwood’s most celebrated projects.
The 240 illustrations in California Captured were chosen by the authors Emily Bills, Sam Lubell and Pierluigi Serraino who spent over five years analysing some 20,000 Rand photographs. Together they tell of a photographer who is an artist with his lens. Rand created abstractions out of lines and structures. He framed the clean and clear modernist structures with striking clarity carefully staging the buildings against a backdrop of LA’s dreamy, washed out, vast, open sky, sometimes the blue ocean in the backdrop. Ellwood was fond of sports cars and Rand brilliantly includes these symbols of modernity within the frame as an extension of the architecture.
He photographed high-profile projects like the Salk Institute and LAX Theme building, but also lesser-famed architects and more modest creations such as Douglas Honnold’s drive-in Tiny Naylor, shot at night skilfully abstracting light and shadow. California Captured reveals Marvin Rand as a significant chronicler of post-war Los Angeles and some of America’s greatest mid-century modern architecture.
The Life Negroni is a project purely from the heart, straddling the world of spirits and mixology, of art and design, of fashion, people and places… even the motor car. Co-authored by me, a book that traverses through history and across cultures to explore a simple cocktail.
And it has been receiving some wonderful reviews too! Thank you to all the critics out there, my colleagues from design and lifestyle magazines, food and cocktail publications for your kind and imaginative words!
Here are snippets of some of the best…
‘The Life Negroni is a gorgeous book offering voyeuristic insights into a way of life which may never have existed anywhere other than the imagination, but one that is no less intoxicating for that…. As a publication, I was reminded of Luc Sante’s epic No Smoking of 2004, a masterpiece of book design. It is an album, a love letter, a guide, a memoir and a rich source of graphic delight, ‘ design critic, aesthete and author Stephen Bayley wrote in The Spectator.
‘Like the drink, the book drips European post-war cool… and it’s just possible it might make you a little thirsty,’ Teddy Jamieson printed in The Herald Magazine.
‘Be warned: this is a gripping read,’ said Time Out.
Jonathan Bell in Wallpaper* wrote: ‘Mixing up a monograph about a single cocktail seems like a tall order, but the Banks’ celebration of all things Italian, bitter and sweet offers a life history of a famous drink.’
Bar Magazine printed: ‘The revival of the classic Negroni has given it a cult status that is celebrated over more than 300 pages in a lavish new book.’
‘The Life Negroni is an ode to this cocktail, recounting the fascinating history, examining ingredients and the people, music, art and fashions it’s inspired,’ wrote Olive Magazine.
‘It’s like going on the Negroni grand tour. La dolce vita!’ Urban Junkies.
‘It explores the influence the Negroni has had on style, fashion and etiquette, as well as the part it has played in music, art and luxury hotels,’ Brummell magazine printed.
Plus Icon magazine dedicated the ‘Obsessions’ page of the July issue to The Life Negroni authors. Thank you Icon!
I love driving, sitting behind the wheel engaged in my personal thoughts, dreams and life, planning grand projects and picturing past memories, listening to my tunes as the world dances by. You feel protected from the outside world inside the cocoon of the motor car yet are very much connected. There are interactions and engagements, especially in a city like London, but there is certainly a sense of looking out… much like a movie screen.
With this in mind, the latest project by Volvo and Barbara Davidson is incredibly interesting to see. The multiple Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and artist has literally turned the latest Volvo XC60 into her camera, her lenses are the lenses of the cameras on-board, and the result is a collection of thirty photographs that capture life on the streets of the Danish capital Copenhagen. Together they offer a fresh view on ordinary life in a European city, as well as a new perspective on the motor car whereby this considered cold, technological product transforms into something softer… perhaps more human.