Photographer Tim Richardson blurs the lines between reality and fiction.
Q: Your work is heavily influenced by futurism and technology. What are your personal beliefs on technology and its potential to fully infiltrate our lives? How do you incorporate technology into your personal life?
On a creative level I see technology as a form of liberation. It has never been easier to connect with other artists and exchange ideas. Film making, photography, animation, VR, installation… every aspect of visualizing our artistic world has been radically expanded in the last 20 years by technology. The potential is literally infinite.
In my personal life I think it’s important to embrace technology with a healthy sense of objectivity. Social media is the one aspect of technology that I treat with the most care. I don’t want technology to blur the distinction between my public and private life. I feel this is the most important choice to make regarding the infiltration of technology in my life.
Q: Your work spans various mediums - photography, motion, and physical installations, oftentimes combining them. How does your process differ when working on different types of projects?
They all share a common creative thread. The process is really about making artistic choices based on the medium. I often explore them simultaneously, moving between mediums on set.
Varying mediums also involve very different teams of people. In the past, working with an Academy Award winning Cinematographer like Dion Beebe or an incredible hair stylist like Eugene Soulieman, they each offer radically different perspectives. There is a kind of controlled spontaneity in that collaboration, which is where I find the greatest joy.
As fluid as that sounds I have to respect the fact that each medium is its own discipline. If I don’t acknowledge the time each team needs to make the best work the idea gets diluted very quickly.
Tim Richardson, Billie Eilish, Numéro Magazine, 2019, Courtesy of the artist
Q: How does your commercial and editorial work, which is mainly in fashion, differ from your personal projects?
My personal projects explore more individual interests. They are less about collaboration in the beginning, and require a lot more time to develop. They can be as simple as a portrait of a musician or as complex as a film script.
I like my personal work to to be a kind of figure study that represents aspects of a person’s public and/or hidden identity. I like dualities and contradictions - they’re always more faithful to the many facets of a person’s character.
What my fashion and personal work share in common is the person - real or imaginary - at the core of every project.
Q: Your work feels completely immersive, how similar are the worlds you create in your work to the world you live in.
I like to explore the otherworldly in my work. That can be extreme or subtle, but it’s about fictions. The interplay between our public and private identities expressed visually.
For example, I just shot Billie Eilish for Numero Art. She is a megastar at 17 and has made a very deliberate choice to keep her personal life separate. I imagine this as the survival mechanism of hiding in plain sight. My way to visualize that was to place her behind a kind of digital veil. A transparent digital window, where she is seen yet remains out of reach. In my world I don’t have that luxury.
My personal world is more tangible. I obsessively collect books and music I am passionate about because it grounds me in the present. I love to be surrounded by people I share history with and find joy in those connections.
Tim Richardson, JONNY // ISSUE ZERO, 2018, Courtesy of the artist
Q: Fashion photography is incredibly collaborative, can you explain how an image comes together when working with a team?
Fashion editorials begin with either a fashion director or magazine editor approaching me. They brief me about the theme or subject (person) of the story and we take it from there. Often they already have a concept in mind. If not I put together a mood board that expresses where I want to go with the idea.
From there we look at the creative team and casting options. Once everyone is on board I refine the idea with the creative team to get their input and ensure we have a clear shared direction for the story. If I have access to the model or person I’m shooting beforehand, I like to share the creative with them. Ideally when everyone walks on set they’re already sharing the same vision.
I see the shoot as kind of controlled spontaneity. The original idea usually evolves to match the tempo of the day. We always start with more concepts than we need - so it’s about editing them down as the story takes shape. This is the most fragile and beautiful part of the process - you have to kill your darlings sometimes in favor of the stronger story.
Tim Richardson, Tao Okamoto, Catherine McNeil, Models.com, 2016, Courtesy of the artist