Tyler Shields has made his name in recent years photographing young Hollywood stars in sexy and subversive shoots designed to provoke. In his new series of images ‘Decadence’, unveiled for the first time this week at Mayfair’s Maddox Gallery, the themes of excess continue, only this time in the world-away historical setting of the court of Marie Antoinette. Scenes are played out with theatrical pomp and exaggerated gestures of indulgence, all caught in a dreamy soft-focus rendering them with a cosy, painterly quality. Of course the cast are comprised of up-and-coming indie actors and models, including Isabelle Fuhrman and Tallulah Willis, with Nineties favourite Jaime King playing Antoinette herself.
Shields involved himself down to the detail creating these images, including overseeing the custom made costumes and wigs. And in order to achieve that softness, he ended up photographing on a 55 year old 8 x 10 camera and Hasselblad with specially designed filters. Amazingly, nothing here is retouched or Photoshopped.
It does feel as though there’s been a move forward and that he’s stepped up a gear from his standard, Terry Richardson-esque treatments, though I still found it lacked any depth past the beauty. The whole exhibition seemed to go no further than to celebrate the vacuousness of the moneyed elite. Perhaps that’s the point, but the lack of change in fundamental themes only shows up where his own values probably lie.
Still, pretty though, innit?
Images: Maddox Gallery, London. Copyright Tyler Shields.