Tyler Shields and Francesca Eastwood in October 2012
What would you do with a $100,000 Hermes Birkin bag? If you're photographer Tyler Shields the answer is simple; destroy it and then take pictures of it.
Hailing from Florida, Tyler made his start in photography by making music videos. He's become famous for his stunning, if often a little controversial, shots of celebrities. His latest exhibition, the Colour of Science, which sees Tyler use the Sony Xperia Tablet Z as his canvas, was shot in the Mojave Desert and features volunteers covered in powdered paint. "It was pretty brutal," Tyler told us. "It was 123 degrees, 70 mile an hour winds. My assistant Camille said it was the worst experience on her life." Luckily the pictures have come out pretty spectacularly. We caught up with him to talk Lindsay Lohan, Mischa Barton and that Birkin bag shoot..
1. The Birkin shot: 'Francesca didn't want to destroy it!'
"Basically I shot Tamara Ecclestone in a million pounds of cash, naked. I was at her house and Francesca (Tyler's girlfriend and daughter of Clint Eastwood) looked like she’d seen a ghost. And I was like 'What's wrong with you?' And I’ve never seen her react like that to something. We were in this room and there were all these purses, and I’m like 'Okay, it’s a room full of purses,' and she was like: 'No, these are Birkins!' And then I found out people get really crazy about the Birkin. So I decided to get a Birkin and destroy it.
It took me 6 months to get one. And so in between I started practising. We set a Louis Vuitton on fire, we sawed a pair of Christian Louboutins in half. Then we finally got the Birkin and Francesca didn’t want to destroy it! So she had to have her weekend with it first. And then we chainsawed it but it didn’t do anything. I looked over at my partner Morgan who I grew up with - and we grew up really poor so this was super funny to us - and I was like 'Set it on fire' and he was like 'Okay'. I still have the remnants of it. I knew that the Birkin was known by a certain type of people, but I didn’t realize that it would make world news and really piss everyone off."
2. The Lindsay shot: 'This was at the time everyone thought she’s going to die'
"This was the first day I shot her. She was like, 'I want to do something with blood.' So she gets a little bit and like puts it on her mouth and then I told her that wasn't enough and made her throw it on the wall. She took a little bit and threw a tiny bit on the wall - and this is my house - I’m like, 'No, throw it on the wall - all of it.' This was the moment where I think she realised that our working relationship was going to be different than anybody else’s. She got it immediately.
I hear stories about her being hard to work with. But she wanted to be doing our shoot. I never had a difficult experience working with her. I think we both knew we were making something really special that day. And this was at the time where everyone was like, 'She’s going to die,' and I was like, 'Let’s play with that.'"
3. The Demi Lovato shot: 'She's a big fan of mine'
"I met her and she's a big fan of mine and she really wanted to do something different. I have one really cool shot of her that no one has ever seen that’s going to be in my book The Dirty Side Of Glamour. I had her smashing shit and she really liked it. She’s fun, a really sweet girl."
4. The meat shot: 'The bigger the person is, the easier to handle controversy'
"I didn’t know about Gaga’s meat dress until after I took this picture and someone showed it to me. This was inspired because Mischa and I were meant to have a meeting and we just went to In and Out. So we’re eating these burgers in my car, and I look over and she just like takes a bite out of this burger, and I was like, 'That’s it – I gotta get raw meat. I gotta have her eating raw meat.'
She’s amazing. I mean she had raw meat on her face. Mischa is amazing. No bullshit, no complaining. Even when PETA got mad she was like, 'It’s all great. I love it.' Completely supportive. It’s interesting, the bigger the person is, the easier it is I think for them to handle controversy.
5. The Dianna Agron shot: 'I love the kids from Glee'
"I love the kids from Glee. Dianna is amazing. I’ve spent a lot of time with these kids. I went to one of their shows and it was really funny. The joke with this shoot was that we killed a unicorn together. There was about 50 pounds of glitter in my house. And glitter, I don’t know if you know this, but glitter is the herpes of the arts and crafts world. Once you have it, you never get rid of it. I am still finding glitter in shit. And that was years ago."
6. The Alex Pettyfer shot: 'It got completely out of hand'
"I met Pettyfer we just started hanging out. Then one day he was like,'Let’s shoot tonight'. And then these two girls showed up and it just got out of hand… It just got completely out of hand. This girl was slapping him, it was just madness and I was like, 'Just go and rip his shirt off… and abuse him.' And they did. This was at the time when he was completely the next sex symbol. People were just really, really obsessed with him. I loved the idea that he doesn’t really want this but it just happens."
Wowsers. Later in the evening Tyler celebrated the launch of Science Of Colour over Prosecco and beers at East London's Truman Brewery. Among the star studded crowd were Kevin McHale from Glee and none other than Tom Cruise's actual daughter. Bella, who has been staying London for the last few months told us, "I absolutely love it in London, the shopping here is really cool; I love all the vintage stores, it's really great not to be recognised." Later on Tyler's girlfriend Francesca Eastwood - daughter of Clint - joined him for the celebrations.
Tyler Shields' exhibition, The Colour Of Science which sees Tyler use the Sony Xperia Z tablet as his canvas is on from now until Sunday 14th July.