‘White Mischief’ by Tim Walker (Vogue UK, May 2011)

Deborah Mistry

This week I visited the amazing ‘Wonderful Things’ exhibition at The V&A (more of which some other time) and it inspired me to write about another favourite Tim Walker shoot ( see my post about the Indian one here).

‘White Mischief’ was shot in Klomanskop a ghost town in the Namibian dessert, a place that has literally been half submerged in sand. Walker was by no means the first, or only photographer to see the artistic potential of this surreal place, but, like Rajasthan, it seems ideally suited to his style, the perfect place for him to conjure up dream like scenes.

 One thing I really liked about this shoot was how perfectly suited to the landscape the clothes were, with their colour palette entirely of whites and creams and the nod to 1950’s style, the era in which the town was abandoned. I loved the slight hint that model Agyness Deyn has been somehow left behind in this desolate place. The romantic design of the clothes and the beautiful ethereal fabrics (lots of tulle and organdie) help to lift the fantasy though and stop the overall feel from becoming bleak.

 My two favourite images were the one with Agyness sitting above the door in the sand filled room with the two leopards, and the one of her on the makeshift diving board above the sand ‘swimming pool’. The former one reminds me a little of the shot of Lily Cole perched above the derelict ballroom which I wrote about here. Is she trying to escape from the leopards? Or does the way she is crouching down suggest that she shares their feline qualities?

 As for the diving board photo, it’s the juxtaposition that is so powerful. The top half of the photo with the blue sky and model in a prefect 1930s swimming outfit (near identical to the one worn by Keira Knightley in Atonement a few years earlier) feels like an image you have seen in Vogue’s swimwear stories plenty of times, but then there is this unexpected contrast of a concrete pit filled with sand and rubble. It seems to beg a question, hinted at throughout the shoot: Will fashion out live everything else?



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