In January 2012, Tyler Udall was appointed Fashion Director at Canada’s finest fashion school, Blanche MacDonald Centre. A notable and worthy accolade for someone whose career began working with the likes of Marc Jacobs in New York, before hopping the pond over to London where he would become part of the Dazed and AnOther family. Now back in Canada and alongside his teaching, Udall's proving himself as an emerging photographer to watch, with his first book of haunting imagery already sold out. With years of experience in the fashion industry, his eye for style and detail is proving to be a winning combination. We spoke to Tyler about his thoughts on his first show, his career and what inspires him.
Dazed Digital: This will be your debut photography show. Why now and what can we expect to see?
Tyler Udall: Like a lot of things in life, opportunities organically present themselves when the timing seems to be right... and the time does feel right. I haven’t been back to London for a couple of years now and I miss the city and my friends terribly. I am pleased that this first show is back in the place where so many creative seeds were planted. This exhibition is a small glimpse into my world over the past few years. Images from friends, lovers, environments, little stolen moments as I saw them.
DD: The show brings together a range of your images - can you highlight a particular favourite?
Tyler Udall: All of the images strike a personal tone for me. Photography is a great diary. Like the sense memory, that happens with a familiar smell, I can look at almost any image I have taken and immediately channel my mood and the circumstance around that photo. I would say that ‘Shade in the Bathtub’, ‘Boardwalk at Christmas’, ‘Anonymous’, ‘Full Moon and Feather’ recall some pretty intense feelings... not necessarily because of the subject matter but because of the things going on in my life at the time.
DD: There is a strong impression of documentary in your photographs - do you work with a method, in terms of process and set-up, or is much of it built on spontaneity?
Tyler Udall: For the most part, it’s all very spontaneous. Sometimes I will go a couple of months without even picking up a camera, and then suddenly I will blast out 20 rolls of film in a day. The entire process is very quick and erratic. It’s not the most efficient way of working, but when you get that surge, you just act on it. It’s kind of like surfing. You hang out in the water doing nothing... sometimes for what feels like ages, and then suddenly that big wave comes, and you do your best to stand on your board and ride it. Sometimes the results are magical, and sometimes you end up with salt water coming out of your nose.
DD: You have worked with some of fashion’s most influential photographers. Did any specifically inspire you?
Tyler Udall: I have been very fortunate to work with so many amazing photographers, such as Collier Schorr, David Armstrong, Terence Koh and Mark Borthwick. Each has this uncanny ability to capture these intimate moments, and really show the undercurrents of their subjects. As soon as the camera comes up, the guard goes down. That is rarely the case with most photographers and their models. Discovering what’s below the surface, that is where the really good stuff is. Dazed and AnOther opened a lot of incredible doors for me.
DD: Who are the models in your photographs?
Tyler Udall: My urban family: friends and lovers, old and new. Romantically I have been with the same person for nearly two years now, and have a very large body of work of him in our day to day lives. These images feel quite different, more guarded, more vulnerable. I love seeing the evolution. As entertaining as a one night stand can be, a relationship and the layers upon layers you slowly peel back, now that is interesting.
DD: Your career has been varied - what would you like to see yourself doing next?
Tyler Udall: I have been playing around with moving image and mixed media for about a year now, but have yet to share it with anyone. I have also been slowly chipping away at a project involving my sex-trade worker friends in the downtown East Side of Vancouver, photographing them and their living spaces, and writing their stories. Eventually it will be a book. Hopefully all that will surface when the time is right.
Tyler Udall at The Little Black Gallery, 13A Park Walk, London, SW10 0AJ from 12th February - 16th March, 2013.
Text by Miranda Williams