Interview With Photographer Tyler Shields

Tyler Shields

Write his name down. TYLER SHIELDS. Hold on to this blog. If this was a newspaper or magazine article in print, I would tell you to preserve it. Tyler Shields is a young professional photographer living in Los Angles and his goal is to sell the most expensive photo ever. He is on his way. In a word his photos are provocative and tell a story with vivid imagination, creative thought and juxtaposition that makes you stare and think, rather than look. His collections include The Dirty Side of Glamour, Submergedand Indulgence.

Tyler was reared in Jacksonville, Florida and became a professional inline skater. He competed professionally and participated in 1999 and 2000 in X games. As a skater, he noticed he was always being photographed. His interest was sparked. He traveled the world at 16 years old. Tyler is a middle school drop out. His father became ill and family responsibilities kept him skating to make money for his family. I spoke with Tyler recently about his newest collection of 20 photos – Historical Fiction. His work are limited editions. His photos are controversial.

Tell me about Historical Fiction

It started in a cornfield in Ohio, with an airplane over a hundred years old, diving over my head. I wanted to shoot this photo for a couple of years. It was like a dream. I wanted to look at iconic moments of history. I wanted the reactions to the moments of JFK’s death, MLK’s death, Marilyn Monroe’s death. How did people react to these moments in normal situations, if they missed the news or the newspaper that morning. I kept having a vision. How did people react? I looked at women in the salon. I talked to people who lived those moments and they said people were in shock, like 9-11. [Tyler was born in 1982 and did not witness these historical moments, first hand]. I imagined those moments.


What if it was Reversed???????

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How do you see? What is the uniqueness of your eye?

I can’t imagine seeing things any other way. I always see the world a bit different in my own way. The Lynching Photo. I always had the vision of what if it were the other way around. When I first saw a picture of a lynching, I thought what if it were the other way around.



How did you choose the historical moments?

I picked moments I heard about. I remember talking to my parents about James Dean dying, and about Kennedy’s death. I recalled these conversations from my childhood. I remember hearing two men debating when Dr. King was assassinated. I remembered the conversation from when I was about 10 years old.


What has the response been to the new collection?

The strongest response is for the Lynching image. People have reached out to say that this is the most powerful photo they have ever seen. This is interesting to me. A friend of mine, Kathryn Griffin, called to say thank you for dong this. One of my African American friends who I grew up with said he broke down in tears.


What are you looking for when you shoot?

Perfection. The goal is always to push beyond the comfort zone. The idea is to give people who look at my work an experience.


When did you become a professional photograper?

I took my first photo 11 years ago and it was bought by Magic, the world’s largest fashion trade show. It was a photo of an empty closet with hangers and two pair of shoes. The photo was circulated. It took off like wildfire. I made a code for “My Space” so that it could be shared. This was pre Facebook days. I was one of the first photographer’s on “My Space.”


What do your photos sell for?

The average price is about $17,000. I have had images sell between $150,000 to $500,000. I had one photo where I set a Hermes purse on fire.


Why did you set it on fire?

I wanted to see what it was made of. The photo of the burning purse went for $150,000.


Why are your photos so expensive?

My goal is for my photos to be worth millions. This is just the start. The photos are done for galleries, museums, and books. They are intended for people who collect. I have never had so many request for a single photo as I have had for the lynching photo. The request so far is between 3,000 to 5,000. I have the Lynching photo in three sizes and there are three of each. The last one is the largest size and it will probably sell for $200,000.


Where is photography going in this age of Facebook and Instagram?

I started on My Space. It was a new platform for expression. I shoot depending on the project. I use digital. I shoot half and half, somtimes 35mm. I like behind the scene photos. Film has a magic that is hard to duplicate. The next project I do will be 8×10 in color. Visit

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