I fell completely in love with these pictures when they were published in Vogue in July 2005. Tim Walker’s amazing talent for creating dreamscapes is perfect for shooting in Northern India, a land which already feels like the backdrop to fairy tales. Add a model with a doll-like otherworldliness (Lily Cole) and some incredible dresses and you have the ingredients for images which exude magic. Never mind ‘eye candy’, these pictures are a ten course visual banquet of inspiration.
I couldn’t pick a favourite, could you? Below are my favourite six though. The one of Lily on the staircase was available as a poster from the Design Museum when they did a Tim Walker exhibition a few years later and I still have it, framed in my house. It’s an exquisitely beautiful and elegant composition, the gown matched perfectly to the faded blue of the walls. But I don’t think it’s as haunting as that double page spread of the dilapidated ballroom with the unexpected and whimsical little detail of Lily perched on a cabinet in front of a peacock’s fan and looking like a dark fairy who you hope will cast a spell to restore the palace to it’s former glory.
More joyful is the image of Lily in a candy striped balloon gown that is visually echoed by the illuminated paper lanterns she is surrounded by. It’s reminiscent of John Singer Sargent’s much loved ‘Carnation Lily, Lily Rose’ but the cupola in the background gives it a distinct Indian setting.
By contrast, the image of the banqueting room lined with hunting trophies conjures up the days of the Raj and and looks like it belongs in a chilly English stately home….except that all the dinner guests will be eating watermelon and Lily is wearing that luxury resort wear staple: a white dress! OK, so I might not be able to pick a favourite photo, but this was definitely my favourite dress!