Spreads in W magazine shot by Tim Walker give fresh perspective on Tilda Swinton
Known for his decadently staged fashion tableaux of models perched in English castles surrounded by cakes, balloons, and multi-colored ponies, Tim Walker’s new editorial spread for W Magazine (on stands now) took him all the way to Iceland to photograph an extra-strange Tilda Swinton.
Styled in geometric monochrome by Jacob Kjeldgaard and set in a cold, barren, truly alien landscape, the shoot is significantly pared down in frill and pomp from the majority of Walker’s previous work. Posing against rocky outcrops and sinking into Martian mineral deposits, Walker and a bald-capped Swinton play up the myth of her eccentricity.
Although the new work for W is a formal departure for Walker, it draws on the same driving force that is behind all of Walker’s work: discovering and often creating myth about his subjects, be they thousand-year-old estates or 18-year-old East Enders. He does this work with an eye for composition, an eye informed by his experience as a full-time assistant for Richard Avedon. This is especially true of the mix of studio portraits included in the Swinton portfolio.
Like Avedon and several of Avedon’s generation, Walker sets his closely-cropped subject against a grey backdrop with perfectly even lighting, leaving the whole set-up as conservative as possible. The subject is left completely vulnerable as the only object of scrutiny. Walker, like Avedon before him, chooses the images that offer telling, emotional detail into the inner life and personality of his subject: what makes her both unusual and human.
This technique was especially striking in this case, Swinton being one of the most outlandish and impenetrable of our public figures. As he explores the alien, Walker engages an energetic and downright silly Tilda Swinton as we’ve never seen her before.
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