Ahead of his stop through Dallas on Saturday at Samuel Lynn Gallery, we caught up with "bad boy" photographer Tyler Shields. The L.A.-based jack of all trades, who has worked with Lindsay Lohan, Emma Roberts, Demi Lovato, Aaron Paul and plenty others, just released his latest collection of work titled Provocateur. He tells us who inspires his at-times controversial photos, why 2 a.m. bare-bones photoshoots are sometimes the best and that he's managed to keep a prank going for six years.
Dallas Observer: Your work is exciting and provocative. Which other filmmakers and photographers excite you?
Tyler Shields: [Stanley] Kubrick, Francis Ford Coppola, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton and [Andy] Warhol.
Can you elaborate on the works exhibited in this show?
This is a collection of color. For the past few years, I have really been trying to perfect color in my prints, and ... I was saving some of these until [Provocateur] came out, so it will be nice to finally display them. But [the subjects] range from the 1960s all the way to the Marie Antoinette era.
Sometimes you shoot on location, other times in studios. Which do you prefer?
It all depends on the concept. I would shoot in a cardboard box if the concept called for it. Some of the best shoots happen at 2 a.m. with no assistants, no help, just me. And sometimes you need to build a $50,000 set and have 40 people on set. It just depends on what you are trying to make.
You've got a great eye for fashion in your work. From whom do you draw the most inspiration?
That is something that runs in me. All I do is make things; the ideas never stop. I have this real excitement to push harder and harder. When a lot of people get to this place, they get lazy. But it only makes me want to be better.
You've been labeled the "bad boy of photography" for a while. Do you find this label benefits you somehow, or do you resent it?
I don't care about labels; they come and go. I also understand you need headlines to get views. You’d be hard pressed to find the headline: “Nice Guy Takes Pretty Photos.” I have been compared to Warhol, Helmut, Newton, Kubrick, Mapplethorpe and Avedon. But these are all icons. They all did great things, so for me when I started being in the big auctions like Phillips and Sotheby’s alongside these people and having work sell for as much as them, I didn’t take it as an, "OK, you're good now." To me, what I am doing is just the start. I am fortunate because they have paved the way.
You work is wryly funny, psychological and sexy all at the same time. How would you describe your sense of humor?
I don't judge. I am sure there is a line, I have just never seen it. But I will say I have done some serious pranks in my day so elaborate [that] two of them have been going for six years. So I guess you could say I am committed to getting the laugh.
Tyler Shields will be at Samuel Lynn Gallery, 1105 Dragon St., from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7, for a free reception and signing of his new book, Provocateur.
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