Photographer Tyler Shields opens exhibit and gallery in Park City
Tyler Shields Opening Reception
6-9 p.m. on Saturday, June 15
Provocateur Gallery, 1675 Redstone Center Drive, #120
Tyler Shields, who is known for his bloodstained images of Lindsey Lohan and shots of Francesca Eastwood torching up a $100,000 Birkin handbag, didn’t know much about fine art photography when he made the decision to start taking his own photographs 14 years ago.
“I had heard of Annie Leibowitz and Ansel Adams, but the only thing I knew about photography was skate photography, because I was a professional (inline) skater,” Shields said. “I just started taking pictures because I wanted to make movies. I took photos in how I would want a scene to look.”
Since then, Shields has since made a name for himself with his images of Emma Roberts, Demi Lovato and Shiloh Fernandez, to name a few.
In February, his 12-photo collage of lipsticked mouths called “Mouthful” sold at auction for almost $24,000.
Shields will be in Park City for a free, public artist reception from 6-9 p.m. on Saturday, June 15, at the Provocateur Gallery, which he co-owns, at 1675 Redstone Center Drive, #120.
Guests will be able to meet Shields and learn about his work and his method of composing photos mentally before shooting.
“Most of the time I will know exactly what I want to do, where I want to do it and how I want to do it,” he said. “I’ll know what lighting I want and what emotion it will covey.”
The photographer knows, however, that his plans can change.
“If you go into something with the idea that anything that doesn’t adhere to the vision is wrong, you will miss out on a lot of great things,” he said. “Sometimes you have to allow space for happy accidents that can happen in the moment. So you have to realize it’s the photograph, not your ego, that matters.”
Since Shields shoots on film and doesn’t edit his photos through a computer program, a set of standards helps him figure out how to approach his shoots.
“When you see a lion standing next to a girl in one of my pieces, you know the lion is really there,” he said. “If you see an Indonesian butterfly, you know that I looked for a guy who farms butterflies in Indonesia.”
Shields has faced other logistical challenges in making sure his photos go unmanipulated.
“Did you know it’s illegal to have a lion in West Hollywood?” he said. “I found that out, so I couldn’t shoot those photos in the original place I wanted to.”
Another came when Shields wanted to shoot an exploding Rolls Royce, which he had to delay because of California’s drought conditions.
“You can plan and plan, but you will never know what the challenges will be,” he said with a laugh.
Throughout his career, Shields knew he didn’t want to be stuck in one genre.
“I like the idea of being able to tell different stories,” he said. “There are themes that run through my works, but I like the idea of playing with different worlds that go from Marie Antoinette, to the 1960s, to the modern day.”
Shields said he is fortunate to be a fine art photographer today, and is thankful for those who paved the way before him.
“I come behind (Robert) Mappelthorpe, Irving Penn and Helmut Newton; the people whose prints weren’t valued then as much as people see them now,” he said. “And back then, a photographer would make 100 prints or 300 prints.”
These days, photography is prevalent in the fine art gallery market, and it has changed the way Shields approaches his art.
“Instead of making a lot of prints, I do a very small run of three prints in three different sizes,” he said. “I talked with the director of photographs of Sotheby’s in London last week about how I do this, and she loved the idea. I’m curious to see how much these photographs would be worth 20, 50 or 100 years from now.”
Shields also has changed his view on what fine art photography is with the advent of editing apps and social media such as Instagram.
“Everyone has an oven, but that doesn’t mean everyone is a master chef,” he said. “Instagram is interesting, but what works on Instagram doesn’t mean people will buy what they see there. Anyone can take a great picture, but can they come up with different ideas to sustain a career for more than 20 or 30 years? That’s the big question.”
Shields is looking forward to his reception at Provocateur, which he co-owns with Parkite Jake Arnold.
The two, along with Arnold’s fiancée, opened the gallery nearly three weeks ago, after forming a friendship in 2017.
“Tyler had called a friend of mine to see if anyone had an old car to use for a photo shoot at the salt flats,” Arnold said. “I had the car and I met him that day when we did that shoot.”
Arnold and Shields began talking about fine art photography and decided to work together in promoting it.
“We came up with the idea to help clients invest in the art,” Arnold said. “And having him as part owner has helped us attract other artists’ works for our gallery.”
Some of those other artworks include pieces by Bansky, Picasso and Newton, and Arnold wants people to come in and enjoy the work before they decide to invest in them.
“I don’t expect people to walk in off the street and buy a photograph off the wall,” Arnold said. “We want people to come check us out and hang out. We want them to have a casual experience with what they see.”
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