Tyler Shields: Submerged at Imitate Modern
Tyler Shields’ Submerged opened at Imitate Modern to the flash of many cameras – small-time celebrities caught on film, much like in his own work. The big difference is that in Shields’ work, the small-time celebrities are caught on film underwater, and the results are impressively beautiful.
Floating somewhere between what you’d see on a perfume ad and what you’d marvel at in National Geographic magazine, the photographs show young women and men diving, dancing and posing in fantastical underwater scenes. In Echo the light catches and reflects ripples on the ocean floor, in Amphitrite bubbles shimmer out of a perfect Kiera Knightley-styled pout, and in First Love beams of light break through the water to illuminate two lovers reaching for each other’s hands.
The pictures were clearly very deliberately considered and choreographed: tulle and silk float in front of backlit scenes, the lighting describes the form of his subjects in a warm, almost Pre-Raphaelite way. One of the biggest feats of the project is that his models were taught to hold their breath underwater for minutes at a time. Shields takes advantage of the versatility of bodies in water to create movement and drama that represents life above, but with alien and unreal textures.
These are striking photographs, but Tyler Shields is unlikely to carve a name for himself in the art world in the same way the Pre-Raphaelites did. His work is striking, but ultimately vacuous. Why are these people underwater? No one seems to know, or care. Each is beautiful to look at, like a flower or a butterfly, but they leave you unchallenged and disinterested. The models stare with unreal expressions, in unreal positions, and we are left with the simple fact that the human form looks pretty underwater if it’s caught by a good cameraman with a good lens.
Photos: Adnan Mo
Tyler Shields: Submerged is at Imitate Modern until 9th November 2013. For further information visit the gallery’s website here.