'Some people get it, some think it's a cry for help': Tyler Shields lifts the lid on being young Hollywood's favourite photographer and THOSE Lohan photos
Hollywood's hottest photographer: Mail Online speaks exclusively to Tyler Shields, the man behind these racy images of Lindsay Lohan‘You can’t really hire me. You can’t shoot with me unless you know someone who knows me.’ Tyler Shields is sitting in his home, which doubles as his studio, a bungalow with boarded-up windows in the heart of Hollywood.
He is the hottest photographer around - his walls are plastered with photographs of his shoots with Zachary Quinto, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere and half of the Glee and Twilight casts - yet he is remarkably anti-industry.
‘Maybe five per cent of my shoots are set up through managers and agents,’ he says. ‘It’s really like, this person is a friend of this person… I met Jenna (Ushkowitz, star of Glee) through Emma Roberts, and Dianna (Agron, also of Glee) through Jenna.
‘I live in my own little universe, people come into it. Emma said to me the other day, “I come over here and it’s like a little family.” I meet them the same way I meet any of my friends.’
‘I’m kind of reclusive. Nine times out of ten, when the parties are happening I’m shooting. Usually what happens is if I do go out to a party, someone will be like, “What are you doing after? Let’s go shoot. Let’s go to Malibu.” That’s how the late night beach mission with Jenna happened.’
Ushkowitz, who plays glee-clubber Tina Cohen-Chang on Glee, shed her schoolgirl image for a racy shoot earlier in the year which saw her don thigh-high boots, a whip and wading into the ocean in the pitch black night.
This is Shields’ speciality, raising eyebrows with his provocative shoots with starlets whose handlers work overtime to maintain a squeaky clean image.
‘No one has ever come to me and said “I want to rebel, I want to be cool,”’ says the 29-year-old. ‘They’re actors. Jenna and I went to the ocean in the middle of the night, she got bashed into rocks for about an hour in the pitch black, and loved it.
‘People have an idea of what celebrities are like. But they want to be a part of it, they want to go on road trips out to the middle of nowhere and do something artistic.’
In 2009 Shields was arrested in Georgia with the young castmembers of The Vampire Diaries for disorderly conduct during a photoshoot which saw them dangling from a bridge. The photographer posted $3000 bail for the group and the charges were eventually dismissed.
Shields, from Jacksonville, Florida, has no formal training in photography. ‘I started out directing music videos. I took this one photo which became huge on the internet, and then someone asked me to take their photograph, then another person.’
His first professional shoot was with actor Ben Foster. ‘It was the first shoot I ever did, and I said to him, “I want you to jump off this roof for me.” He looked at it, he looked back at me and he said, “Let me tie my shoes.” I’ll never forget that moment. It could have gone horribly wrong. He put the photo in his house and people went nuts for it.
His most famous subject is of course Lindsay Lohan, who he was introduced to through her Machete co-star Electra Avellan. ‘We started tweeting each other and then shot together,’ he says, ‘then we shot the Inferno pictures,’ (Lohan’s ill-fated film about Deep Throat star Linda Lovelace, which she was eventually let go from.)
Shields’ shoots with Lohan tend to make headlines, usually for their use of guns, knives and blood. ‘I have so many unreleased shoots of her,’ he says. Now she just calls up and says, “Let’s go shoot.”
‘The Lindsay in the pictures is the artist. That’s the Lindsay who is working, shooting something. Actors who are on hiatus come to me and say “I want to get it out, I want to be creative.” And that’s an outlet to them.
'I said to (Lohan) a while ago, "I got a tunnel. We need a big dress. And an umbrella." And she said "I got the dress".'
Lohan’s work with Shields started to emerge in the midst of her very public legal and personal battles.
‘I think she looks at it like, “You guys want to know how I’m doing? Here it is. I’m fine.” I think if I was in the situation where people were always talking about my wellbeing, I’d do the same thing. The blood portraits are like turning it on it’s head. When those pictures came out, some people got it, others said, “Oh no, this is a cry for help!”
‘I don’t think my portraits of Lindsay covered in blood and holding knives and guns have hurt the public perception of her. People see an image like that and it’s shocking to them. But she did the movie Machete and she had a gun in the poster for that, no big deal, it’s a movie poster. But this is art, some people are like ‘Holy s***,’ but its no big deal. Some people just don’t get it.
Blood is a recurring theme in Shields’ portfolio. ‘It started with (St Trinian’s actress) Juno Temple. She said she wanted to do something with blood. Then everybody started asking and it became a sort of thing. I thought, “I’m going to take this as far as I can.”’
Is it just for shock value? ‘To me, blood isn’t shocking,’ he says. ‘It’s interesting the effect it has on people. Blood has a story. If you see blood on a wall, you see it and you think, “something’s happened.” We use fake blood on the shoots though… most of the time.’
Not for his infamous blood painting though, which saw himself, and others including Jenna Ushkowitz donate their own. ‘It was a weird time,’ he admits. ‘I had a fridge full of blood and we were in the middle of building the coffin we used for one of the Lohan shoots. People would come over and say, “Are you a vampire?”’
Another headline-grabbing stunt of Shields was when he shot a party-goer with a gun in the middle of a star-studded launch party for his photographs in early 2010. It was part of a performance piece, and the 'victim' was unharmed, but the incident was no less shocking to the witnesses.
When asked for an explanation, he is very matter of fact. ‘Well, there are three things I’ve always wanted to do: Object at a wedding, marry two people, as in officiate the ceremony, and shoot someone.
‘I’m marrying someone later in the year, (Not just anyone - A.J McLean from The Backstreet Boys), and the shooting thing, I thought “this is the perfect opportunity.”
‘People had really intense reactions. Some people loved it, other people say, “too much.” He recalls a man approaching him recently and berating him over the stunt. ‘I thought if I can make someone so angry, still, a year and a half after the fact… you know, not everyone’s going to be on board when you shoot a guy, but even when they’re not on board, they’re still on board… they reacted.’
Tyler is bringing his controversial brand of art to the UK next month for a collaboration with London-based artist Maximilian Wiedemann.
The exhibit, which launches on October 13, will showcase individual works by each artist and collaborative pieces. ‘We’re doing a lot of the collaborative stuff over skype,’ Shields reveals. ‘We’re making art over Skype. The first piece we did together we did over email, we’d never met.
The photographer will be fitting in shoots with some of London’s brightest talent during his stopover. On his wish list? ‘Keira Knightley and Kaya Scodelario from Skins,’ he says.
Of the opening party? ‘I just hope I’m not in jail by the end of the night,’ he says. ‘It’s going to be wild. Wear comfortable shoes.’
For more of Tyler's work, visit TylerShields.com and to learn about the London exhibit visit Imitatemodern.com