Tyler Shields: Bad boy of photography [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]

tyler shields, kathy griffin, donald trump, maga

Tyler Shields earned $75 on the first photo he ever took.  His path to becoming “Hollywood’s favorite photographer” was atypical, but nothing about Shields is ordinary.  His photos are works of art and they “play with notions of the gaze, power structures, hyper-realism, iconoclastic-tendencies and cinematographic practice.”

He hails from Jacksonville, Florida and was active in extreme sports.  In fact, he was a professional inline skater.  After spending years in the skating circuit, participating in the X Games with Tony Hawk, he began directing music videos.

He is known as “the bad boy of photography.” Nothing seems to be taboo with him.  His photos often feature dark, sometimes erotic themes with elements of death, sex, violence, nudity, obsession, romance, nightmares and plenty of fantasy. GQ calls his work “gloriously twisted.”

His work is filled with curious juxtapositions that are memorable.  Some of his most controversial works include Lindsay Lohan covered in blood, destroying a $100,000 Birkin bag, hedonistic happenings at the French Court in Versailles, a naked black man lynching a KKK member and most recently in spring 2017, comedienne Kathy Griffin holding up prop of a severed head of President Trump.

Image result for tyler shields french

He published The Dirty Side of Glamour in 2011 and Provocateur in January 2017.  His first novel Smartest Man came out in 2011.  In 2015, Shields directed action thriller Final Girl starring Abigail Breslin.  His photography work has shown all over the world and, so far, it sells for up to $150,000 for a single print.

Tyler Shields, the artist/photographer/writer/director/provocateur spoke with Michelle Tompkins for TheCelebrityCafe.com about his career, how his art depends on his mood, how he gets his inspiration, how he got the cast of The Vampire Diaries arrested, what constitutes a successful photograph, how the infamous Kathy Griffin shot came about, how he got friends to donate blood for him to use in a painting, charity work that inspires him, what he wants his legacy to be and more.

Michelle Tompkins:  Well, I’m so glad we are finally able to connect. I’ve heard so much about you.

Tyler Shields:  I’ve been in so many countries.

MT:  Now, what were you doing in London?

TS:  I had a gallery there.

MT:  Was it a new show?

TS:  It was.

MT:  How did it go over?

TS:  It went amazing.

The best barbecue in Jacksonville, Florida is?

MT:  Now, you grew up in Jacksonville. How often do you get back to visit your family and friends?

TS:  I haven’t been back in a while, but I’m just literally yesterday talking about coming back. It’s been a couple years.

MT:  That’s a long time.

TS:  I know. I need some Woody’s Barbecue in my life [laughter].

MT:  What’s your favorite thing to get there?

TS:  I get the beef sandwich, the French fries. And about a pound of Woody sauce.

MT:  I haven’t had it, but I love a good barbecue.

TS:  Oh, man. You’ve got to have Woody’s. I order the sauce. I have it sent to me out here.

MT:  Is it a tomato-based spicy or what’s it taste like?

TS:  They have a couple different. There’s a mustard-based one that’s the one. The classic Woody’s barbecue sauce.

MT:  I’ll have to take a look at that.

TS:  Yeah.

Image result for tyler shields x games

Tyler’s beginning in extreme sports

MT:  Well, tell me a little bit about your childhood.

TS:  I grew up, obviously, in Jacksonville. At first, when I was probably seven, I started racing motocross.

MT:  Motocross? That young?

TS:  Oh, yeah. So, I was racing motocross all around Florida and Georgia, all the way up to South Carolina. I did that, and then I started skating at Kona Skate Park when I was done with motocross. I retired from motocross when I was 12. And then I started skating.

MT:  So, you went from motorized to powered by yourself?

TS:  That’s right.

MT:  No, what interested you in vertical inline skating?

TS:  Honestly, my best childhood friend at the time, he came over to my house, and his entire body was scraped up. And I was like, “What happened to you?” He had scrapes and bruises, and he’s all cut up. And he’s like, “Oh, man. I was at the skate park.” And I was like, “What?” And he’s like, “Yeah. It’s amazing.” And so he invited me, and the skate park was 10 minutes from my house, and I went, and I was absolutely hooked.

MT:  Now, are you still friendly with Tony Hawk?

TS:  I mean, I’m friendly with all those guys when I see them. I just don’t see them very often. But all of the skaters that I toured with, anytime I see any of them, it’s always amazing. We’ve had a couple friends, obviously, who have died over the years, and things have happened. So we’ll all kind of get together or chat when things like that happen.

Image result for tyler shields x games

MT:  Now, which extreme sports have you tried?

TS:  Oh, I mean, I’ve tried probably all of them [laughter]. I mean, I’ve raced cars. I’ve skateboarded. I’ve BMXed. I’ve raced motorcycles. I’ve rollerbladed. I’ve wakeboarded. I’ve skied. I’ve surfed. I’ve snowboarded, skydived, rock climbed. I don’t know. I mean, the only thing I don’t think I’ll try technically a street luge. But I did once in a video. We went  89 miles an hour on a plastic three-wheel scooter from Toys ‘R’ Us.

MT:  That sounds fun. I can see kids saying, “Mom, look what I can do!”

TS:  Oh yeah, the wheels burned off.

MT:  Oh, wow [laughter].

TS:  It was incredible.

MT:  Well, it seems like you have that thrill-seeking gene.

TS:  It’s funny because it doesn’t—I don’t get that—you know when people get that nervous feeling like oh, I don’t really get that. It’s almost more angelic. It’s more relaxed. There’s nothing more calm to me than doing a backflip [laughter].

MT:  Well, it shows in your art that you have a different way of looking at the world.

TS:  Right.

MT:  Were you always into art?

TS:  No. I mean, I didn’t really know anything about photography until I was already making a living at it. And I know that probably sounds crazy, but I knew skate photography, right. But I didn’t know anything about fashion photography or fine art or anything like that. And now that sounds crazy because everybody has Instagram and everybody—photography is everywhere. But at the time, nobody really had websites. No photographers really had websites. And if they did, you had to know who they were. There was no social media. And the only way to really see anything was in magazines or books, which I didn’t have any magazine subscriptions and I didn’t have any photo books. So I’ve heard of Ansel Adams and Annie Leibovitz. And there was a point when a couple girls I knew knew who David LaChapelle was. But that was literally the extent of it. And obviously, Warhol, Picasso, and these guys you’ve obviously heard of. But it wasn’t until much later that I really started to understand the level of art.

The journey from director of music videos to world renown photographer

MT:  You’ve also directed music videos. What constitutes a good music video to you?

TS:  There are some amazing music videos. And the sad truth of it is you have to have a great song. It’s very difficult to make a great music video if the song’s not great.

It’s one of those things. When you make a movie, the visual is 50 percent and the audio is 50 percent. But when you make a music video, it’s probably more like 70/30.

MT:  Now what kind of music do you like?

TS:  I mean, I like all types of music. I mean, obviously, I grew up listening to the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles, and Pink Floyd and all that. I love Radiohead, Arcade Fire. I have a pretty wide spectrum. Every day that I’m on set for a movie, I put on “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly in the morning because it’s a weird OCD thing that started years ago. God help my live-in assistants when we were doing the movies because they were constantly having to listen to R. Kelly full blast in the morning.

MT:  Whatever gets the creative process going for you.

TS:  YThat was before, “Oh, my God, I’m OCD and I can’t let this go.” But what can you do?

MT:  What was the first photo you sold?

TS:  The first photo I sold was the first photo I ever took.  I was batting 1.000 there for a second.

Image result for tyler shields closet

MT:  That’s lucky [laughter]. That’s really good.

TS:  It’s the one with the shoes and the hanger in the empty closet. So that was the first one. I sold it for $75 and it was four by five inches.

MT:  Well, it’s a start.

TS: Hey, you’ve got to start somewhere.

MT:  Well, I read that a bad breakup prompted your push into photography. How does your work change depending on your mood?

TS:  I think that what’s happening in your life can obviously affect you, especially when you start out. When you’re starting something—there was a bit of darkness in the beginning of my work because I was poor and I was heartbroken and I was angry. And as you grow and as you evolve— and for me, as I’ve understood photography more and I’ve understood life more, my work has obviously changed. But I think there’s something about figuring out the stories that you want to tell and just executing those stories. And in the beginning, I saw the world a very specific way and now I’ve been through so much, and I’ve seen so much, and I understand so much more than I did then, so the stories are obviously different now.

Image result for tyler shields x games

Trying new things as an artist

MT:  What constitutes a successful photo?

TS:  It’s funny because there’s basically three types of photos that I have now, which is, one, it’s just a photo; two, it’s a photo that’ll go in a book; and three, it’s a photo that will go on a wall. And I put no pressure on any of them to sell or I put no pressure on any of the photographs to do anything. If people like them, then they like them. Then if they don’t, then they don’t. Which is part of the fun because then you are constantly just trying new things. We’re caught in this society right now where a lot of artists or a lot of photographers are trying to repeat the success that they’ve had. And if you post a photo on Instagram and you get 1000 likes or 10,000 likes, you want to take that same photo again so that you can get those likes again. And that’s a dangerous place to be.

MT:  That is. Now, what kind of assignments are boring to you?

TS:  Assignments?

MT:  Or I guess photo commissions? I don’t know what it would be called.

TS:  Oh, yeah, so I don’t do any of those. I probably will do one job a year that’s for somebody else.

MT: So I guess the next question is then how does work come to you? Do you just get your own ideas and then try to sell them that way?

TS:  So everything that I do is based off of galleries. So I will go out and shoot and create whatever I want and then I’ll put it in the gallery and then people collect it and they buy it. And that’s it. So, again, you have to be very self-motivated. There isn’t a time when someone’s like, “All right, we’re going to pay you to take this photograph.” I mean I’ll do that probably once a year, where I’ll do a commission or a job or something but it’s always with somebody who I know and am friends with.

MT:  If you got a call from Vanity Fair or something like that, would you say no, that’s not what you do?

TS:  Well, I did Vanity Fair last— in 2015 I think it was. So how that worked was because it was for Colton Hanes. It was right when he was coming out as being gay. And so he just came over to my house and we shot and that was it. There was no one from the magazine there. It was just we just did whatever we wanted to do.

Image result for tyler shields colton

MT:  Wow, cool.

TS:  A nice way.

Shields addresses the “bad boy” label

MT:  Do you like being referred to as the “bad boy of photography?”

TS:  It’s funny. I mean because you don’t think about yourself like that.

MT:  I would hope most people wouldn’t [laughter].

TS:   I don’t walk around thinking, “Oh, yeah, I’m the bad boy.” But, look, I understand people love labels and also, at the same time, I’ve tried to do it my own way, which often times scares people.

MT:  I mean it sounds intimidating, actually. Well, I like that GQ also called your work “gloriously twisted.”

TS:  Oh, that’s nice.

Image result for tyler shields vampire diaries

MT:  I think that one is kind of awesome.

TS:  That’s great.

Should artists defend or apologize for their work?

MT:  Does the public’s opinion of you or your work matter to you?

TS:  No. Look, at the end of the day, you’re going to have people that are going to like you and you’re going to have people that are not going to like you. You can’t live just by the people that like you and you can’t live by the people that don’t like you. You have to just make the things you want to make. And even some of my close friends and people I know well don’t like some of the stuff that I do. When I made the KKK image, I remember one of my friends hated it. And what can you do?

Lynching, Tyler Sheilds, KKK

MT:  Have you ever apologized for a photo?

TS:  No, I don’t think I’ve ever apologized for a photo. I mean I think one time, I think people got mad at me once for something and I said, “I’m sorry if you’re upset, but being mad at me isn’t going to solve the problem.” But everyone now has to apologize for everything. It’s really crazy.

MT:  Well, I think artists especially are asked to defend their work all the time.

TS:  Right.

MT:  Now, it also seems like people regard you more as an artist than as a celebrity photographer. I think you probably would too. How would you define the difference between the two?

TS:  Celebrity photography is dead. That ended years ago. The Instagram and social media and the iPhone have replaced the celebrity photographer. I mean don’t get me wrong, I use celebrities in my work, but they’re actors. I don’t think of them as celebrities, they’re just actors who are acting in the photograph, whereas, celebrity photography—and look, that was something that I definitely did, there was a time when you can just take a photo of a celebrity and that was the story, but that just doesn’t exist anymore.

MT:  Now, if someone wants to hire you or commission you, how does that happen?

TS:  A lot of the times, it goes through friends or people that I know. But sometimes people go on my website and they’ll email me and say, “Hey.” But a lot of the times, it’ll be through people I know or someone I know might be doing something, they might ask me to shoot it for them or something like that.

Adding to “Historical Fiction” Collection

MT:  Now, how did you decide what to include in your “Historical Fiction” series?

TS:  It was just one of those things I had to kind of go with what was presenting itself to me at the time. Like the airplane image, that just happened. The KKK image— obviously, when I say they just happened, they were planned, but those shots kind of fall into your lap and you just kind of take them when they come to you.

Image result for tyler shields james dean

MT:  Well, Giant is one of my favorite movies. I saw that and was wondering if you were trying to get that kind of vibe.

TS:  Giant? Oh, I never…

MT:  Oh, it’s wonderful. It’s one of James Dean’s three movies.

TS:  Oh, wow. Yeah, I’ve never seen it.

MT:  Oh, that’s really funny because it actually looks like you were using one of the cowboys from the movie.

TS:  Oh, really?

MT:  Yeah.

TS:  That’s so funny. I mean, I just thought that the cowboy with the James Dean thing just worked really well.

MT:  It did. But it worked even better if you put it in the context of his last movie.

TS:  Wow. Okay. I’m going to have to watch that.

MT:  It’s really good. It’s with Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson.

TS:  Wow.

MT:  Now, did you ever decide that you wanted to be provocative with your photos or did it just happen that way?

TS:  It just completely happened that way.

MT:  Have you had any fave photos?

TS:  It’s tough because I couldn’t say that this one’s my favorite and it also depends on the mood that I’m in. There’s certain ones, obviously, the airplane, and the KKK, and the gator Birkin. And there’s ones that were just like, “Oh, This was a really crazy moment.” But then there’re other ones that are personal to me in terms of what it took to take them or make them. But it’s always the next one. Right now, there’s ones in my mind that I want to do and those are the ones I’m most excited about.

MT:  I’ve always wondered, after a professional photo shoot, if the artist gives a copy to their subjects for their own use or do they ever get copies? I’m not sure how that works.

TS:  No, I mean, people get photos that they posed. But no, I only make a very limited amount of prints. So, I only make three prints. Three per size and I only do three sizes, so…

Who does he really want to photograph?

MT:  Now, who are some people that you would like to photograph?

TS:  It’s interesting because it’s difficult when you fantasize about someone and then you meet them and they’re completely different from what you expected. And I’ve been fortunate because I get so much time with people and I get such a rare insight into the people that come around because they want me to shoot them. I don’t know, it’s interesting. There’re definitely some people that I think could be interesting. Warren Buffet is someone who I’d love to photograph [laughter].

MT:  I don’t know if you’ll be able to do some of your thrill-seeking stuff with him but he might be game.

TS:  Yeah, right? He seems like he’s pretty down.

MT:  Yeah, go to Nebraska and say, “Hey.”

TS:  Yeah, right?

MT:  Yeah, I guess you could give it a try. Now, this one might be a gauche question, but what’s the most money anyone’s paid for one of your photos?

TS:  For the normal size print, $150,000.

MT:  Oh, wow.

TS:  Yeah.

He got the whole cast of The Vampire Diaries arrested!

MT:  [laughter]. So you got the whole cast of Vampire Diaries arrested?

TS:  I did.

MT:  How did that happen?

TS:  Well, we were standing on the bridge taking pictures, and then the police were there, and the next thing I know we were taking mugshots.

MT:  What was the cause? What did they say was the reason?

TS:  Well, the reason was they found out that the girls were on a TV show. There was no real reason. I wish that I could tell you like, oh, they were naked, or they were doing something, but there was no real reason.

MT:  Oh, okay. Now, tell me a little bit about your book.

TS:  So The Dirty Side of Glamour was a book that I published with HarperCollins, and it’s basically that collection of that type of work, and then Provocateur, which is the last book, there’s 500 images in it, and that one kind of covers a wide variety of all the stuff from the Marie Antionette stuff, to the historical fiction stuff, portraits. I mean there’s a lot of crazy stuff in there.

MT:  And you were able to take those photos in the Louvre?

TS:  In Versailles, you mean?

MT:  Oh, Versailles. I’m sorry. 

TS:  No, no. So I looked into shooting in Versailles, but when I told them I want basically Champagne and cake all over the floor, they were not too thrilled about that. [laughter].

And so I said, ‘All right, well, fuck it, let’s just build the rooms ourselves,’ and so we built the sets.

MT:  Oh.

TS:  Yeah.

MT:  Now, what about The Smartest Man? What’s that about?

TS:  That was a book that I wrote years ago, maybe, I don’t know, ten years ago now. It’s basically a survivalist book. It’s one of those things. It’s written in the state of consciousness, so there’s no grammar in it or anything, and it’s funny because people are either fanatic about that book or they absolutely hate it. [laughter].

MT:  Well, it seems like most people don’t just look at you and say, ‘Ah, he’s okay.’

TS:  Yeah.

MT:  It seems to be one extreme or the other.

TS:  Yeah, right?

He made a painting out of human blood? Whose?

MT:  Yes. I think that’s more interesting in some ways. Now, did you actually ask celebrities to donate blood for “Life is Not A Fairytale?”

TS:  I did and they did. [laughter].  I had a refrigerator full of blood, which I made a six-foot painting out of.

MT:  Wow. [laughter]. Okay. How did you get the idea for that one?

TS:  I was thinking, I had a show coming up, and I was thinking about making just one piece of work that was different or a painting or something, and I thought, “Oh, it would be really cool if I did it with blood,” and then I was like, “Oh, I could do it with my blood,” and then I talked to a doctor and they were like, “Yeah, no, you can’t,” you can’t give enough of your own blood for that, and I was like, “Okay, well, how much blood would I need?” [laughter]   and they said that in order to do it safely,  you’d need 20 people, and I was like, “Oh, okay. Cool [laughter].”

I was like, “Oh, that’s easy. I can get 20 people over.” So we had milk and cookies and—and everyone donated blood.


MT:  Oh, well, that’s good. You had your own little blood bank there.

TS:  That’s right.

MT:  Was everyone’s blood a little different in color or texture or was it pretty much all the same?

TS:  It all looked the same, but I did have a fridge full of it in my room for a few weeks and I looked like I was a vampire

Traumatizing fashionistas by killing a Birkin bag

MT:  Now, did you buy the Birkin bag that you destroyed?

TS:  No. It was given to me.

Image result for tyler shields birkin

MT:  Okay. Now, how did they feel when you destroyed it? I loved watching some celebrity reactions. ‘No. What’s he doing???’  [laughter]

TS:  People were very upset.

MT:  Were you pleased with yourself?

TS:  The honest truth of it is I didn’t realize at the time how coveted that bag was [laughter]. I was just like, ‘Yeah. Let’s do it.’ And I didn’t pay for it so I didn’t even really know how much it was worth [laughter].

MT:  Yeah. I think some fashionistas were wanting to hunt you down for that one.

TS:  Big time.

The Kathy Griffin story

MT:  Now, tell me about one of your most recent controversial shots with Kathy Griffin and President Trump?

TS:  I mean, we just, Kathy and I just wanted to—we were doing a shoot, and she said, “Oh, let’s do something political.” And literally, that happened in a matter of 10 minutes, and then I only took 3 slides of film and cut two—it’s just everywhere. It’s just crazy. It was just absolutely crazy. There were 20 news vans outside of my house.

Image result for tyler shields kathy griffin

MT:  Wow. How do you feel about the public reaction to it?

TS:  It was the same thing I said to Kathy. People were very upset at first, and I was like, ‘Look. It was the same thing that happened to the Dixie Chicks.’ They said something against George Bush. Next thing you know, people are setting their albums on fire and a year later they had their biggest album that they’d ever had, and they had their number one song that they’d ever had, and people were like, ‘Oh, well, maybe there’s another side to it.’ And that’s kind of the same thing that’s happened now is people were really, really pissed, and now they’re not so pissed anymore.

MT:  Have you ever regretted publishing or showing a photo?

TS:  No.

MT:  Now, which photos have caused the biggest reaction from the public?

TS:  I’d say the Kathy one, the KKK, the Lindsey Lohan, the Mischa Barton. Those were probably the— the biggest reaction from the public.

MT:  I actually really liked “Ballet.”

TS:  Oh, yeah? Yeah Yeah. The ballet one, that was probably the most viral. It’s just…

Image result for tyler shields ballet

MT:  I always like to see what people are willing to do for their work and what they do for their art.

TS:  Yep.

MT:  Now, do you think it’s an artist responsibility to defend their art?

TS:  No. Why do you have to defend it?

MT:  Now, do you think that artists are required to make a political or social statement through their work?

TS:  No. I don’t think an artist is— I don’t think an artist is required to do anything that they don’t want to do. That’s the beauty of being an artist. If I make the photographs and you don’t like it, don’t look at it.

Shields’ Legacy

MT:  Now, do you have a favorite photo that someone else has taken of you?

TS:  Oh, that’s interesting. Yeah, there’s one of me that my girlfriend Ana took. It was just a portrait, but I think she got something really nice out of it. And we’ve learned over the years that I look much better on film than I do on a digital file.

Tyler Shields [Image by Ana Mulvoy Ten]
MT:  That’s interesting. I wouldn’t know that there would be a difference to the two.

TS:  Huge difference.

MT:  Now, who are some photographers you admire?

TS:  Richard Avedon.  I think a lot of photographers today owe a lot to Robert Mapplethorpe, and regardless of if you like his work or not. What I mean by that is him and Sam Wagstaff did a lot of work to make photography a really collectible thing, and that’s something they really fought to make happen.

MT:  Do you plan to direct any more films?

TS:  I do, yeah.

MT:  Is anything happening with your script The Wild Ones?

TS:  Yeah, that movie is optioned at Atlas at the moment, so they’re figuring that out, and then I’m just working on the next one now.

MT:  What are some of your favorite movies or TV shows?

TS:  House of Cards, Billions, Full Metal Jacket and Four Christmases.

MT:  Now, is there something you haven’t done yet but want to do?

TS:  Well, I mean, I’d like to go to space [laughter]. I know that sounds crazy but I feel that will— going into space will be a normal thing by the time I did.

MT:  Now you are famous, is fame what you thought it would be?

TS:  Yeah [laughter]. Yeah. Yeah. Fame drives people crazy. It’s not a real— it’s like the stock market, it’s not a real thing. You’re not making anything. When I say fame, I don’t mean when you’re making a movie or when you’re making something. But fame itself is— it’s just not a real commodity. So it can go away, it can become bigger. It’s literally volatile. To quote The Wolf of Wall Street, “I don’t care if you’re a sous chef or a stockbroker. Nobody knows if stocks are going to go up or down, or left or right, or what’s going to happen.”

MT:  That is very true. Now, what do you like to do for fun?

TS:  I like taking pictures [laughter].

MT:  That’s when your life and work melds. That’s great.

TS:  I’m trying to learn how to exist as a normal person but…

MT:  And how’s that working out?

TS:  I have a hard time with it. It’s something that I really—I was so poor and I have this dream, and I put everything else to the side. I don’t really do anything other than work, and it consumes me all the time. Some of my friends refer to me as Howard Hughes, not because my fingernails are really long and I piss in milk bottles…

MT:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

TS:  I still use the bathroom like a normal person but give it time, right? But I think it takes a dedication to achieve what I wanted to achieve. That is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, unlike anything that most of the people I know go through. Obviously, there’re people you find, people you know, who are very dedicated to what they do in the same way. And that’s what’s fortunate about being out here is you meet people like that. But at the same time, you at a certain point do forget to do stuff. There was a year, maybe a year and a half of my life where I didn’t go into a grocery store.

MT:  Did someone else buy your groceries for you or did you just not get to it?

TS:  No. Absolutely. It’s just one of those things. I had a list of this is what I eat and it was just brought to me every week. And that was it. And here’s the thing. That’s obviously convenient but you lose a touch of reality.

MT:  You lose a lot of reality because all of a sudden things are magically done for you.

TS:  Exactly.

MT:  Now, what is the biggest splurge you’ve done with the money that you’ve earned?

TS:  Oh man. Splurging. That’s another problem. Are you saying like a personal splurge or can I include like cameras and that?

MT:  You can include anything you want.

TS:  Yes. I don’t know. I mean I think I own every camera that I’ve ever wanted to own. Some of them were given to me though. So, probably cameras.

MT:  Are they modern cameras, or vintage cameras, or a little bit of both?

TS:  They’re all old cameras. I have a new– I have one new Hasselblad and one new– the rest of everything else is almost as old as I am or older. One of my go-to cameras is 1959.  And that’s like one of the— we use it almost every day. It’s crazy. It still just works perfectly.

MT:  Well, I think things are made better a little bit long time ago.

TS:  Crazy, right?

MT:  Yeah. Yeah. How do you like people to connect with you?

TS:  How do I like people that connect with me?

MT:  Do you like social media, or through your website?

TS:  Website, social media, through friends. It’s very easy for me to figure out if somebody is in line with what I’m doing or what I want to do.

MT:  Now are there any charities that you support that you want to mention?

TS:  YI did a campaign with Love is Louder years and years ago. So I worked with them for a long time. And then I’ve just done various stuff here and there. But that was kind of the main one.

MT:  Now, where have you not traveled to that you want to go to?

TS:  I’ve traveled almost everywhere from skating, but a place that I haven’t really photographed yet that I want to is Iceland. I’d like to go to Iceland.

MT:  Now you’re definitely a renaissance kind of guy. Now given that what would you like your legacy to be?

TS:  Well, I’d like to go down as one of the greatest photographers and greatest filmmakers of my time.

MT:  It seems like you’re on your way to doing that, so that’s a start.

TS:  That’s the plan [laughter].

Which comes first the photo or the gallery?

MT:  What are you working on now?

TS:  So, right now I’m working on the next book which is probably three years out. And then I just finished up all the galleries, and so I’m doing a new series on an eight by ten camera which is the big, large format, kind of— I think this one’s probably 30 years old. So we’ve been kind of working on that series. And I’d like to do a show of just all eight by ten inches, which is nice.

MT:  Do you already have the spaces picked out before you do a show? Which comes first, the show or the space?

TS:  It just depends really. It depends on when I finish something. It depends on how long I work on a series. I’ve had some series where I work on it for a couple weeks, and then I’ve had somewhere I’ve worked on it for a year.

MT:  How do you know when something’s done?

TS:  It’s never done [laughter]. You always want to tinker, and you always are like “Oh, I could’ve done this or we could’ve put that in there—” Even with historical fiction, I’ve just recently shot some stuff for a project coming up that’s in that vein. I didn’t really get enough.

MT:  I think it’s neat that you can always go back and do something a totally different way in order to improve things.

TS:  Totally. I mean, that’s the beauty of all this, is you— No matter what you do or no matter how perfect a photograph is, or a movie is or something that you make is, as you grow and adapt, you want to do better. You want to do better, so you might look back on something, and people might love it and you might look back on it and be like “ah, I could’ve done that better.” Or “I’d do it different now.” But part of the fun of that is it keeps you going. And it does.

MT:  What’s next for you?
TS:  I have something very exciting coming out sometime in January. Although I can not announce yet, it will be epic!

Learn more about Tyler Shields here.

[Images from Tyler Shields]

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Michelle Tompkins

Michelle Tompkins is an award-winning media, PR and crisis communications professional with more than ten years experience with coverage in virtually every traditional and new media outlet. She is currently a communications and media strategist and writer, as well as the author of College Prowler: Guidebook for Columbia University. She served as the Media Relations Manager for the Girl Scouts of the USA where she managed all media and talking points, created social media strategy, trained executives and donors and served as the organization’s primary spokesperson, participating in daily interviews with local, regional, and national media outlets. She managed the media for the Let Me Know internet safety and Cyberbullying prevention campaign with Microsoft, as well as Girl Scouts’ centennial Year of the Girl To Get Her There celebration in 2012, which yielded more than 800 million earned media impressions. In addition to her extensive media experience, Michelle worked as a talent agent in Los Angeles, California, as well contracting as a digital content developer and her writing has appeared in newspapers and online. She is passionate about television, theater, classic movies, all things food and in-home entertaining. While she has lived and worked in NYC for more than a decade, she is from suburban Sacramento and gets back there often to watch the San Francisco Giants on TV with her family.