In September, a new V&A exhibition invites visitors to experience the fantastical imagination of Tim Walker, one of the world’s most inventive photographers. Tim Walker: Wonderful Things is the largest exhibition of Walker’s pictures to date. It celebrates his extraordinary contribution to image-making over the last 25 years and the inspirational role that the V&A’s collection plays in his creative process.
At the heart of the exhibition are 10 major new photographic projects, directly influenced by treasures in the V&A’s collection. In preparation for the exhibition, Walker visited object stores and conservation studios, meeting many of the museum’s curators, conservators and technicians. He scoured the V&A’s 145 public galleries, scaled the roof of the 12-acre South Kensington site, and explored the labyrinth of Victorian passages below ground level. Along the way, he encountered luminous stained-glass windows, vivid Indian miniature paintings, jewelled snuffboxes, erotic illustrations, golden shoes, and a 50-metre-long photograph of the Bayeux Tapestry, the largest photograph in the museum’s collection. These and many other rare artefacts have inspired Walker’s monumental new photographs, and feature in the exhibition designed by leading British creative, Shona Heath.
Walker said: “To me, the V&A has always been a palace of dreams — it’s the most inspiring place in the world. The museum’s collection is so wide and eclectic, and I think that’s why it resonates with me so much. Many of the objects that I saw during my research at the museum made my heart swell and I wanted to try to create a photograph that would relate not only to the physical presence and beauty of that object, but also to my emotional reaction to it. 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. 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 over the past three years has pushed me into new territories, which is very exciting, and I’m at a stage in my life where I feel brave enough to do that.”
The exhibition is the latest in the museum’s series of projects working in collaboration with contemporary practitioners. It opens just under a year after the launch of Phase One of the V&A Photography Centre, a new space to showcase the museum’s world-class photographic holdings.