Portraits hanging on red painted wall of a gallery

Exhibition view, Tim Walker: Wonderful People, Michael Hoppen Gallery (London, 2019–2020). Photo and © Michael Hoppen Gallery, London

Tim Walker’s photographs are usually found on the glossy covers and pages of high-end fashion magazines, but his work holds a different power in a gallery setting as this latest exhibition at Michael Hoppen Gallery shows. The exhibition, entitled Wonderful People, focuses on the British photographer’s portraits of celebrities, and runs alongside the V&A‘s current retrospective show.

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The display includes over sixty portraits, spanning his entire career, and featuring the likes of Margaret Atwood, Adwoa Aboah, Tilda Swinton (Walker’s long-term muse), Helena Bonham Carter, Claire Foy and Emma Watson. As with all of his works, these individuals are cast into surreal dreamscapes, often set against otherworldly backdrops, wearing striking costumes or holding unusual props.

Writer Margaret Atwood in oversized coat

Margaret Atwood, Tim Walker for The Sunday Times (London, 2019). © Tim Walker Studio, Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery

Actress Tilda Swinton in large collar

Tilda Swinton in exaggerated collar, Tim Walker (Reykjavik, Iceland 2011). Fashion: Giorgio Armani. © Tim Walker Studio, Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery

For Walker, photography is less about capturing what can already be seen, and more about enlivening the imagination. Whilst most of the faces are instantly recognisable, they appear strange, and somehow distant through Walker’s lens. The work, of course, is fantastical, deliberately playful, and yet, something more sinister seems to be lurking beneath.

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Standing in front of prize-winning writer Margaret Atwood poised as a witch-like figure holding a long feather quill, one can’t help but wonder whether we’re being asked to contemplate the bizarre realm of celebrity alongside the beauty of the image, to wonder at the power of our imagination whilst recognising the myths it creates.

Surreal photograph of man jumping into a picture frame with woman inside

Jordan Robson & Emma Watson, Tim Walker (London, 2016). Fashion: Maison Francesco Scognamlgllo © Tim Walker Studio, Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery

Tim Walker: Wonderful People runs until 25 January 2025 at Michael Hoppen Gallery, London.