S otheby’s is delighted to present a curated selection of some of the most iconic works by contemporary artist Tyler Shields, in collaboration with his representative London gallery, Imitate Modern. Best known for his provocative photography that relates to the themes of consumerism, violence, and fantasy, his images play with the notions of the gaze, power structures, hyperrealism, and cinematography.
Shields actively challenges in his practice the modern concepts of what constitutes portrait photography by addressing its structure in a shifting landscape of identities and meanings in our contemporary world. His vision is to capture a new type of life through exploring the fictional nature of both the historical and the classic.
|Brandei Estes |
Director. Head of Department
+44 20 7293 5586
+44 20 7293 5896
Very much rooted in his experience as a music video director – Shields undoubtedly possesses a strong cinematic eye. Through his constant challenging of the medium he has quickly become a referent of what is today called staged or mise-en-scène photography.
This genre captures artificially constructed scenes made solely for the purpose of the shot. This approach to the medium was popularized in the 1980s through the work of iconic artists such as Cindy Sherman and Jeff Wall.
Shields pushes the limits of what can be captured in a fraction of a second. The works are shot as large scale productions, resembling that of a film set. Allie Evans, one of his models described working with him as ‘[he makes you feel] like the impossible is always possible. Perhaps that’s why his best work is nothing short of magic.’
‘The fun is in the chaos and how each shoot requires a new set of skills and challenges.’
Gathering inspiration from the likes of Irving Penn and Helmet Newton – eroticism is at the core of Shields’ practice. In his work, there is a constant search for the sensuality of the subject, and as he puts it, ‘the most iconic people have an erotic side to them because they are bold, daring and fearless, even if it was just during the moment the photograph was taken’.
‘The most iconic people have an erotic side to them because they are bold, daring and fearless.’
Pop Culture / Hollywood
As a young photographer growing up during the MySpace era, Shields is no stranger to the power of Pop Culture. Although he was brought up in Jacksonville, Florida, Shields is now based in Los Angeles and is very familiar with the ‘new’ Hollywood glamour.
Works like ‘Chateau Marmont’ or ‘Bunny’ are quintessential representations of Hollywood seduction. The use of brand names is something recurrent in the history of art, and especially during the Pop Art movement with practices such as Warhol’s. Photographs like ‘Chanel Silhouette’, ‘Birkin Tug of War’ or ‘Prada Popcorn’ are all examples of the importance of consumerism in our society which has been even more accentuated through social media in the past decade.
This is of course a side effect of our ever-growing love for celebrity culture and Shields is conscious of this. Pieces such as ‘Match’ or ‘Contemplation’ are an ode to our admiration for the hidden life of others. These fascinating images play with the notions of fantasy, power structures and consumerism, all through the vision of a voyeur.
‘A great photograph freezes time forever… I want to tell the story of a lifetime in a photograph.’