Photographer Tyler Shields is no stranger to controversy: Remember when he destroyed a $100,000 Hermes Birkin bag and everyone got really pissed? Or that time he shot Heather Morris playing a glee-ful (pardon the pun) victim of domestic abuse and everyone got really pissed? And how about the Mischa Barton/raw meat photo shoot that got
everyone PETA really pissed? Well, you get the idea.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Shields at last night’s launch party for the Samsung Galaxy Note II (which also included a rambling, smoke-machine fueled performance by Kanye West–huzzah! And…cough) to chat about Terry Richardson, death threats, and burning that poor, poor Birkin.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Tyler Shields.
So those photos of you destroying a $100,000 Birkin caused quite a stir. You said afterwards that if someone bought the photo, you would donate $100,000 to a family in need. Did that happen?
Right. Well, I said that if somebody wants to buy the photo, then I would give the money to a charity. And so I donated one of the editions to a charity in London actually, and I think that auction takes place… I wanna say in November? And that’s a charity. So we’ve donated that to a charity, and as far as my knowledge, they have the print, and it’ll go up into their auction thing, and then they’ll give the proceeds…I think to a childs’ hospital, and then one other thing. It should be cool.
Ok! You tend to shoot a lot of young actresses, a lot of them are kind of… I don’t want to say troubled, but they’ve had some issues: Mischa Barton, Lindsay Lohan, etc. What is it about working with these girls?
You know, it’s interesting because I’ve never really been interested in fame, I’m more interested in talent. And you know like, Mischa’s game. She gets it. She understands what it is I’m doing, and gets it and has fun with it. Some models and some younger actors or actresses who havent really been through what someone like Lindsay or Mischa has been through, they’re still very afraid. ‘Cause the first time that the press attacks you or freaks out about somethng, I’ve seen it–and it scares the shit out of people. Mischa, when [her raw meat photo shoot] came out, she was like “this is really funny, I mean like, I love it, it was funny.” ‘Cause like PETA got upset. Honestly like, Mischa Barton didn’t kill the cow. You know, she didn’t brutally murder a cow, she didn’t do anything like that. I bought a steak at a grocery store. So it’s like yeah, sure, they’re gonna get mad. People are always gonna get mad, that’s it. You know, Louis Vuitton burns their unsold items. Nobody gets mad about that. But I burned a Birkin and, you know…
How did your shoot with Heather Morris (as an abuse victim) come about? It obviously got a lot of people really upset.
Well I had met her, and she was always like “I wanna do a shoot one day, I would love to do a Barbie-themed shoot.” And I was like awesome. And I wanted to get, like, a pink Corvette and blow it up or something like that, but they’re really like hard to find. So we ended up doing her as bruised barbie, and people just… you know, there were some people who saw that and thought that I gave her a black eye for real.
I mean, I don’t know if people actually thought that?
Oh, they did! They emailed me! I got 25,000 death threats because of that photoshoot.
Whoa! Do you have security or something? Do you fear for your life?!
Oh, I have guns. The joke is, that if you tried to break into my house, with like, the people who live with me and everything, it’s the wrong house to come into. There’s like battle axes in the corner. Wrong house.
Speaking of guns, I know with the photo shoot you did of Lindsay Lohan with a gun, later on, Terry Richardson did a really similar one with her. Do you feel any sort of shock-value rivalry with terry? Is there any sort of competition there?
I’ve only seen a little bit of his work, only the stuff that people have sent me. You know, obviously people sent me that shoot that he did. I assume that he had never seen the shoot that I did, ’cause if he had, there’s no way that he would just copy it. It was probably Lindsay being like ‘Oh let’s do this, I did this before,’ you know, I don’t know. I know that a lot of people on my behalf were really offended by [the similar shoot]. But I don’t have any rivalry with him. I think that in art, the only person you’re in a rivalry with is yourself. What he does is so completely different from what I do, and everyone who’s shot with him and shot with me, they’re like, ‘you guys could not be any more different.’ He does a lot of magazine stuff, and I sell fine art stuff. It just happens to be that my stuff gets covered, and his stuff gets covered. I mean, I don’t know, I dont have anything against him.