Surreal Stylish Photography By Tim Walker At V&A, But It's Missing Substance

Tim Walker: Wonderful Things, V&A ★★★☆☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 55 months ago

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Last Updated 11 December 2019

Surreal Stylish Photography By Tim Walker At V&A, But It's Missing Substance Tim Walker: Wonderful Things, V&A 3
Tim Walker's take on the Bayeux tapestry feels more fashion shoot than history. Image copyright Victoria & Albert Museum

A woman dressed in black sits on the edge of a UFO floating a few feet off the ground, she looks down as if contemplating the nature of existence in this rather surreal scene. What's even more impressive is that it's an elaborately staged image with no post-editing involved. It's typical of the work of art and fashion photographer Tim Walker, and it's one of over a hundred photographs in this major exhibition at V&A.

The opening gallery is like a greatest hits collection of  Walker's work. There's a woman and a lion side by side looking enraptured as they peek out of their theatre box. David Attenborough smiles at us over the top of an elephant bird egg and a light-hearted 'Sheikh on skis' poses in the middle of the Sahara. The title of this show is Wonderful Things and that perfectly suits the fantastical worlds Walker creates — even if the brightly lit hang makes the works hard to see thanks to the glare off the glazed frames.

One of his works inspired by the collection. Copyright Tim Walker.

For this show Walker takes inspiration from the V&A's collection. For example he transforms a snuffbox decorated with a dragon into a series where a woman is taking her pet dragon for a walk, or nudes that are contorted and out of proportion — like a photographic version of a Francis Bacon painting.

The works are surreal, beautiful and dreamy... so why does it feel like there's something missing here? The feeling lingers that the V&A should be providing inspiration for Walker to take his work in a new direction. Instead, this is a show of Walker bending V&A objects to his own vision. For example his series inspired by the Bayeux tapestry, which feels more like a fashion shoot than a slice of history.

The exhibition design is amazing, as it always is at V&A. Image copyright Victoria & Albert Museum

That's not to say this isn't a gorgeous looking show with each room drool-inducingly decked out — no one touches V&A when it comes to exhibition design. It's just that there are lashings of style, where there should be more substance. Though if you just want to get lost in immersive environments and see wonderful things, this exhibition will tick all the boxes.

Tim Walker: Wonderful Things is on at V&A from 21 September - 8 March. Tickets are £15.