Tyler Shields is a photographer known for his attention grabbing photoshoots with celebrity sitters - Lindsay Lohan covered in blood, anyone? - but his most recent project with Glee's Heather Morris has seen Shields accused of glamourising domestic violence. The artist has since apologised and will be auctioning three of his works to raise money for relationship violence awareness campaign, Tell Somebody. We spoke to Shields about the shoot, here's what he said:
Tyler, your statement on the Heather Morris photoshoot said: "In no way did we even think about promoting domestic violence."
Given the domestic setting and the bruising, what was the original intention and direction for the shoot if you weren't dealing with violence?
"Honestly, we wanted to do a Barbie themed shoot - a bruised up Barbie who has let go of perfection."
When you saw the final images did you see they might be interpreted as glamourising violence?
"No way! I have done much crazier photos. I never thought people would react like this."
Were you surprised at the strength of people's reactions to the photos - you said you've had death threats over this?
"Certainly - when people even 5 minutes ago are threatening to kill me - it's so funny to read their emails. They are so angry."
What has Heather's reaction been? Both to the initial shots and the backlash?
"She loved the [initial] shots but we haven't spoken about any of this."
You seem to have a talent for bringing out a dirty, edgy side of your subjects - how does that happen? Do you have to work to bring that out?
It just happens. I dont Photoshop them to an inch of their lives - I shoot them and thats them."
You often use confrontational props, like guns, in photoshoots - why?
"They tell a story. So many people are scared of so many things - I dont like to run from fear. I dont believe in fear."
You crop up in your own images too. Most photographers stay out of shot so what tempted you in front of the lens?
"The people I am shooting always ask me to so its a fun thing to do. When I'm old it will be amazing to look back on."
Your shoots seem very physical - what's the most exhausting experience you've had on set?
"A few weeks ago in the desert we were shooting a scene and an actress passed out. She was down for about an hour then later in the day my shoulder was dislocated."
Finally, will the reaction to your current work it affect how you work in the future?
Well Hung - an exhibition of work by Maximilian Wiedemann & Tyler Shields will be on display at Imitate Modern, 12 Oct - 14 Nov.
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