Inside Tim Walker’s Fashion and Fantasy World

The British photographer’s exhibition of ethereal imagery lands at the Getty Center



Walker at the V&A, where he researched the objects and images that inspired his show. Photograph by Sarah Lloyd.


A vibrant new exhibition of fashion photographer Tim Walker’s otherworldly images brings a virtuosic visual feast to the Getty Center, with a local twist. Tim Walker: Wonderful Things (through August 20) is centered around a behind-the-scenes look at a wonderland of paintings, objects, and textiles from the Victoria and Albert Museum—and two paintings from the Getty collection—that inspired a series of 10 photo shoots dreamed up by Walker and his boundary-pushing team of set designers, stylists, makeup artists, and muses. Walker created 10 shoots for the original exhibition at the V&A in 2019, and they have since traveled around the world. Now the Getty has selected nine of the originals and proposed a new tenth section—based on two 15th-century Northern Renaissance paintings from its own collection—in the form of a commission for the museum.

The show also includes a mini-retrospective with 28 editorial shots by the British lensman, who got his start working in London’s Cecil Beaton Archive at the Condé Nast Library and assisting famed fashion photographer Richard Avedon.


The depth of Walker’s imagination and innovative expression is captivating


Lucas Cranach the Elder’s A Faun and His Family with a Slain Lion, c. 1526 (left), an artwork from the Getty collection that inspired Amphibian and Lewis Walker with Blue Satin, 2022 (right).


Museum collection objects, short films, and even photographic sets give a glimpse into Walker’s creative process, in addition to the derivative photographs themselves, hinting at ever-present thematic staples such as fairy tales, nude portraits, the English countryside, and Beaton. Paul Martineau, curator of photographs at the Getty, says the depth of Walker’s imagination and his innovative expression of ideas is captivating, and points out, “All the elements in Walker’s photographs are physically present before the camera and not added in later using digital tools.”

Longtime muse Tilda Swinton done up as the poet Edith Sitwell, a distant relative of Swinton’s photographed by Beaton, headlines a series titled Why Not Be Oneself? with penciled-in eyebrows, piles of Lisa Eisner turquoise rings, a Gucci dress, and a Marc Jacobs belt worn as a turban. Striking brightly hued images of models with South Asian heritage comprise an aptly titled Cloud 9 series riffing on a 16th-century painting of Krishna and Indra. “Walker’s sophisticated use of color draws the eye to his work,” adds Martineau. 1200 Getty Center Dr., L.A., 310-440-7300, getty.edu.


Cloud 9, 2018.


Why Not Be Oneself?, 2018, with actress Tilda Swinton as poet Edith Sitwell.


Box of Delights, 2018.


Pen and Ink, 2017.




Feature image: Cloud 9 (detail), 2018. All images courtesy of the artist.


This story originally appeared in the Summer 2023 issue of C Magazine.

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