After a photo of Kathy Griffin holding a fake but bloody, severed head of President Donald Trump was released on Tuesday, the comedienne found herself in the midst of a major Twitter storm of outrage from both sides of the aisle — not to mention on the radar of the Secret Service. The response led her to offer a pleading apology in which she admits to having gone “way too far,” but that didn’t stop CNN from swiftly firing her as the network’s New Year’s Eve co-host (along with Anderson Cooper) after a decade-long run.
Griffin’s photo was not a spontaneous selfie shared on social media but a planned and conceptualized shoot by a seasoned professional: Tyler Shields, the Los Angeles–based “bad boy of photography” who has worked with celebrities from Lindsay Lohan to Mischa Barton and never shied away from controversy.
“I am sure there is a line, I have just never seen it,” he recently told the Dallas Observer regarding his sense of humor. (Shields did not immediately respond to Yahoo Style’s request for comment on the Griffin photo.)
Although he, along with Griffin, has removed the triggering Trump image from social media, this is far from the first time that Shields, 35, has found himself in the eye of a storm.
A post shared by Tyler Shields (@thetylershields) on Sep 19, 2016 at 4:47am PDT
The filmmaker and artistic photographer with a skewered high-fashion perspective has made waves with imagery ranging from men (like Colton Haynes) in drag, and women (like Lohan) stained with blood — not to mention beauty tools (like a blow dryer) being used as weapons, and luxury accessories (a $100,000 Hermes Birkin bag, a $15,000 Louis Vuitton trunk) being sawed and burned to death.
A post shared by Tyler Shields (@thetylershields) on Feb 19, 2017 at 3:19pm PST
GQ has said of Shields’s work, “While big-shot Hollywood producers once demanded a trophy Banksy canvas to be hanging above their faux-Spanish fireplaces, now all they want is one of [Tyler] Shields‘ gloriously twisted photographs.”
A post shared by Tyler Shields (@thetylershields) on Dec 20, 2016 at 3:32pm PST
Photo Whoa Blog‘s Freddy Martinez was a bit more loquacious, writing in 2014: “His images are working, at their best, to dislodge portraiture from reality, reminding you that photography — even supposedly honest photography — still obscures the truth.”
A post shared by Tyler Shields (@thetylershields) on May 18, 2016 at 12:15pm PDT
But he added, “if they cause you any hesitation, remember it’s all makeup, toy guns, Mickey Mouse heads, and red corn syrup. It’s nasty and hilarious — not the ideal, lofty, up-in-the-clouds glitz and glamour but the nose-bleed afterparty, the concrete-glitter, the other side to imagination.”
One of the things I love doing most is portraits when you first start taking photographs they portraits seem so easy you get a person they stand there and you take their photo, but the more you do it the more you want to go deeper into the person you are shooting so it becomes a dance how much are they willing to give and how much are you willing to ask for,the best portraits come when both people are open to allowing what is meant to happen to simply happen. For any photographers who love taking portraits one of the things I try and think about is what will this look like 100 years from now or what would this look like if I took it 50 years ago. Swipe right to see a few portraits from the last year and comment below i want to hear about your experience being shot or shooting someone’s portrait.
A post shared by Tyler Shields (@thetylershields) on May 25, 2017 at 1:52pm PDT
In that interview, when asked why he incorporates violent images of “blood, guns, knives, biting, punching, hunger, sex,” Shields said, “I love playing with reality in fiction. It makes you feel something. It affects you and it’s too real for some people, but the people who love it, really love it, and that makes me happy.”
I normally never take photos of myself but when you have the monochrome Leica you just can’t help it. This was right before my show Cincinnati what do you think should I post more of these? Thanks @leicacamerausa
A post shared by Tyler Shields (@thetylershields) on Dec 27, 2016 at 10:41am PST
The photographer has gotten flak from some for “glorifying” violent imagery of women. Regarding that, he told Elle some years ago, “People automatically assume that if a girl is in that position or in that situation, that it is violence against her and that she’s weak, and ‘Oh, he’s making girls look weak.’ Girls and women are the most powerful creatures on this planet. Without them, nothing exists. Period.”
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