Art

Weeping Skeletons and Cardboard Swans: The Surreal Dreams of a Fashion Photographer

Tim Walker, "Inside/Outside Eglingham Hall, Northumberland, England" (2002) (©Tim Walker, Dreamscapes at The Bowes Museum)
Tim Walker, “Inside/Outside, Eglingham Hall, Northumberland, England” (2002) (©Tim Walker, Dreamscapes at The Bowes Museum)

As dreams are the fragments of memory colliding in our sleep, it makes sense that “dreamscapes” imagined by a prominent fashion photographer would be rich with sleek surrealism and carefully staged beauty.

Tim Walker, "Stella Tennant and pink powder cloud. Eglingham Hall, Northumberland" (2007) (©Tim Walker, Dreamscapes at The Bowes Museum)
Tim Walker, “Stella Tennant and pink powder cloud. Eglingham Hall, Northumberland” (2007) (©Tim Walker, Dreamscapes at The Bowes Museum) (click here to view larger resolution)

Currently on view at the stately Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle in England, Tim Walker’s Dreamscapes exhibition has 26 photographs installed in light boxes in a darkened gallery. The Bowes Museum itself is an otherworldly place, appearing like a French château transported to the middle of County Durham in the North of England. Its opulence seems a good fit for Walker’s art, which merges the traditions of English landscapes with surrealism and his skills as a fashion photographer.

However, as curator Greville Worthington notes in the release, “his seductive images demand to be read as more than fashion.” Walker is a fashion magazine regular who recently did some uncanny portraits of Tilda Swinton (a frequent muse of his) for W Magazine and regularly photographs spreads for Vogue that have a stunning use of place as their backdrop. Likewise, his Dreamscapes have the rolling grass and clustered haunting woods of Northumberland as the setting for tableaus of beds suspended in trees, gigantic dolls lumbering out of forests, weeping skeletons, models posed dramatically, and Walker himself in bed with 80 cakes (a dream come true?). They’re all created with props with no digital manipulation. His Storyteller exhibition at Somerset House last fall had some of the actual props invading the gallery, but the Bowes Museum show is just all about the saturated color photographs. Below are a few from the exhibition.

Tim Walker, "Eglingham children and swan Alnmouth, Northumberland, England" (2002) (©Tim Walker, Dreamscapes at The Bowes Museum)
Tim Walker, “Eglingham children and swan, Alnmouth, Northumberland, England” (2002) (©Tim Walker, Dreamscapes at The Bowes Museum)
Tim Walker, "Malgosia Bela and crying skeleton Cants of Colchester, Essex" (2008) (©Tim Walker, Dreamscapes at The Bowes Museum)
Tim Walker, “Malgosia Bela and crying skeleton, Cants of Colchester, Essex” (2008) (©Tim Walker, Dreamscapes at The Bowes Museum)
Tim Walker, "The dress/lamp tree Eglingham Hall, Northumberland, England" (2002) (©Tim Walker, Dreamscapes at The Bowes Museum)
Tim Walker, “The dress/lamp tree, Eglingham Hall, Northumberland, England” (2002) (©Tim Walker, Dreamscapes at The Bowes Museum)
Tim Walker, "Lindsey Wixson and Giant Doll as ‘Babes in the Wood’ Eglingham Hall, Northumberland" (2011) (©Tim Walker, Dreamscapes at The Bowes Museum)
Tim Walker, “Lindsey Wixson and Giant Doll as ‘Babes in the Wood’, Eglingham Hall, Northumberland” (2011) (©Tim Walker, Dreamscapes at The Bowes Museum)
Tim Walker, "Self portrait with eighty cakes Eglingham Hall, Northumberland" (2008) (©Tim Walker, Dreamscapes at The Bowes Museum)
Tim Walker, “Self portrait with eighty cakes, Eglingham Hall, Northumberland” (2008) (©Tim Walker, Dreamscapes at The Bowes Museum)

Tim Walker: Dreamscapes is on view through September 1 at the Bowes Museum (Barnard Castle, England). 

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