Boundary pushing Photographer Tyler Shields uses brightly hued compositions to explore a world where indulgence, luxury, celebrity and irony collide beautifully. An early adopter of social media, Shields got his first big break when an advertising exec saw some of his work on Myspace. He’s now one of the world’s most sought after photographers, so we’re lucky he could fit in a few minutes to answer our questions about the work he has showing right now at HYDE Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails and his exhibition “Indulgence” on view at Guy Hepner.
We’ve been obsessed with your work since the days of Myspace and you’ve always found a way to push boundaries. What made you decide to showcase your work on the social media platform back then?
At the time, blogs didn’t really exist. And magazines were tough because they didn’t understand what I wanted to do at the time and a few even told me it would be impossible. I decided if I was going to do exactly what I wanted to do, I was just going to do it on my own. The thing is I needed people to see my work. Myspace was becoming bigger everyday so I put all my focus there. It was an amazing time, truly the wild, wild West of the digital age. Most people didn’t have digital cameras or even know how to upload photos. We have come a long way since then and its great because at certain galleries I will meet people who say exactly what you just said: They first found me on Myspace nine years ago.
You have a motley crew of subjects you’ve shot in the past, from Lindsay Lohan to Glee’s Heather Morris. Has there been one particular subject to date that changed your perception of your art?
I have been very lucky to have some incredible and talented people to work with and that’s whats so fun about shooting with creative people. It would be too difficult to name one, as everyone brings something different to a shoot. It just feeds you and the more ideas come, the more I can expand. My life really changed when I started selling prints because it gave me complete freedom and complete control to create with only who I wanted, and do only what I wanted. It’s quite an amazing feeling when you see something printed large and in someone’s home because whatever went into making that moment was something special and a random series of events led me to it. That’s part of the fun.
Pablo Picasso had Marie-Therese Walter, David LaChapelle had Amanda Lepore, and Andy Warhol had Edie Sedgwick; do you have a current muse whose style and energy inspires your work?
I think history will have to dictate that. I have had a few great muses over the years. My go-to right now who I share most things with, and talk a lot of ideas over with, is Emma Roberts. She has impeccable taste. No matter where she is in the world I can text her a photo and within minutes she will respond with her thoughts. She always knows which ones will be loved. I think its important to have good people around you who’s opinions you can trust.
Your work often has an eerie and dark undertone. What draws you in that direction?
There are so many crazy and wonderful things that happen in the world. I can drive down the street and find a hundred ideas. I find ideas in the weirdest and strangest of places and things. When I worked on The Dirty Side of Glamour—my latest coffee table book—for five years, that was the focus of my work. So it just went in the weird and crazy direction of everything that comes with the chaos and destruction of glamour. When the book came out I had already started playing with new ideas. Part of the fun is being able to be inventive within your own mind.
What was the inspiration behind the two pieces that will be displayed at HYDE Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails?
I love the idea of how they would be seen. You are in an intimate setting—even if you are having a quiet conversation or the music is loud and everyone is dancing on tables, it doesn’t matter—because the prints are there and larger than life. I thought the chromatic colored print would be interesting as it’s a very sexual image. My hope is that it inspires some sort of debauchery. The submerged print is a frame right out of a dream and my hope with that is that someone will see it above them and it will seep into their subconscious and follow them home in their dreams. I love the idea of where people will be seeing them, as a lot of art is kept hidden away in art galleries for [only] a select group of people.