Behind the Image: Tung Walsh on the Importance of Humor on Sets

Behind the Image is an ongoing series taking a more personal look at both established and emerging creative talent.

“This self-portrait in the jungle was taken in Malaysia with my son for Arena Homme Plus, I’m wearing a Givenchy suit.”
Image courtesy Tung Walsh

Tung Walsh, photographer

Hometown: London
Based: London
Representation: 2DM MANAGEMENT (New York, Milan)

How would you describe your work? What’s your trademark?
I think I am always trying to evolve my work. I never wanted to shoot the same way over and over again. I feel people love to pigeonhole you in this business, but it makes me feel uncomfortable.

How did you get into your chosen career?
My stepdad (David Corio) was a music photographer, so I would hang around the darkroom while he printed and then sometimes he would take me on shoots with bands like Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, etc. I entered a competition which was broadcasted on Channel 4 [in UK]. It was judged by Martin Parr, Elaine Constantine and Dennis Morris. I won my category; they were photographs of all the tradespeople that delivered to a pub I worked in, it was in Clerkenwell. Then I applied to work for Juergen Teller and was interviewed by his then-agent Katy Baggott. I went on to assist him, I really loved his work at that time as they were not typical glossy fashion images and had more of an art/documentary point of view to them.

What other jobs have you had?
I did a paper round, which is insane to think kids did that then. I also worked at LCP in the photography department.

What have you watched/heard/read lately that has inspired you?
I’ve been watching Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown on Netflix in lockdown, he travels to some far-out places. Also, the Talking Heads film Stop Making Sense. I’ve started The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, which was recommended to me a long time ago by Evan Dando.

What do you love about what you do?
I love the collaboration with people, people from all different backgrounds, and being on set, making creative work.

What have been the biggest challenges you have faced professionally?
Right now! I think this is a really tough and uncertain time, and work has felt quite insignificant compared to what is happening in the world. People are losing their jobs and going to food banks and you are shooting clothes and jewelry worth astronomical amounts of money. But obviously, I understand the art and craft behind fashion and that we all need to escape from reality at times.

What’s one thing outside of your work that you would like people to know about you?
My kids like listening to this track called Good Person ft Roomie, it makes me laugh.

Who do you think is one to watch?
My friend and collaborator, stylist Flora Huddart.

Selected Work

image courtesy Tung Walsh

Stella Tennant for Self Service in Edinburgh, Scotland
I was commissioned by Suzanne Koller at Self Service magazine to go to Edinburgh to photograph Stella. I had met her before when I was an assistant so it was quite overwhelming to have the chance to take her picture. Somehow she gave me the wrong address so I was running around the streets with 2 big bags. She lived on the top floor so by the time I got there I was sweating and hot. She sat me down and made a pot of tea. She was lovely, funny and kind. RIP Stella.

image courtesy Tung Walsh

Cara Delevigne for Russh in Coney Island, NYC
I wanted to shoot at Coney island ever since my mother took me there, so I suggested it to Gillian Wilkins, a stylist who I had been collaborating with. We were asked to photograph Cara Delevingne for the cover of Russh magazine. The rendezvous point was an apartment in Brooklyn I had been staying at. I got a text in the morning from my friend who had been out the night before with Cara and said they hadn’t been to sleep so I suddenly got a bit worried she wasn’t going to turn up. But she did! I turned to Gill and said maybe she needs to lie down for a bit. A few hours later she was up and ready. We did the hair and makeup and jumped in the van, I think there was a Grateful Dead concert on at the time and it was boiling hot. The shoot was great, strange and fun.

image courtesy Tung Walsh

Karen Elson for Bergdorf Goodman in Nashville, Tennessee
I was asked to shoot Karen in Nashville for Bergdorf Goodman, styled by Anne Christensen. We shot in loads of great locations; the Grand Ole Opry, RCA Records, the Parthenon. Then we found this big boot on the street, so Karen jumped on to it and I think it was the best shot of the shoot.

image courtesy Tung Walsh

Maryna Linchuk for Pop magazine in Chinatown, NYC
I was commissioned to shoot a fashion story for Pop Magazine, styled by Sara Moonves. I wanted to shoot in a dim sum restaurant and I remembered going to this one but forgot where it was. We eventually found the place, and I remember Sara being freaked out by the food as she is Jewish and Chinese food is definitely not kosher. My mum used to say to me, “your eyes are too big for your belly.”

image courtesy Tung Walsh

Taylor Swift in Los Angeles
I went to LA with Julia Sarr-Jamois. We hired a red convertible Mustang because we were in LA. We got to the studio and Taylor was really cool. She had no entourage, she pretty much just turned up on her own and didn’t mind trying out everything. I shot this really quickly as she made it so easy. She made a heart sign, I think it was before loads of people were doing that so I didn’t really see what she was doing until I got the pictures back. It’s nice when you get a surprise.

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