Tung Walsh counts Christopher Nolan, Riz Ahmed and Zaha Hadid among his portfolio subjects
Not many people can claim that they’ve been in the company of some of the most influential people on the planet as many times as this photographer.
- Dalia Al-Dujaili
- 22 November 2021
If I were famous, I’d want to be photographed by Tung Walsh. That’s not something I often think about, but one can’t help wanting to be captured so uniquely and playfully as his subjects are. And Tung is surprisingly modest considering his achievements as a photographer so far. Growing up in a creative household, the Chinese-Irish and London-based Tung began his artistic endeavours as a painter at art school, but claims he was “naturally better” at photography. His tutor at the time encouraged him to shoot more; “I went on to work in some darkrooms and then a picture library before assisting Juergen Teller.” From art school darkrooms to Teller, it’s no small leap.
Since then, Tung has photographed for magazines including i-D, POP, Vogue, Dazed, NY Times andThe Wall Street Journal. It’s no wonder publications everywhere are picking up Tung’s talents to photograph the cultural icons; he’s able to capture people who seemingly achieve the impossible in a humane and soft way, displaying them in an almost child-like state, presenting them beautifully to match the high praise they receive for their work.
With portraits of Taylor Swift, Mariah Carey, Matthew McConaughey, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Koons, Christopher Nolan and Zaha Hadid under his belt, Tung is motivated by “fiction and escapism: it is nice to be able to transport yourself somewhere else." So, part of his vision is making sure his subjects feel comfortable enough to emanate this sense of otherworldliness. One can draw endless parallels with Teller’s own photographic voice: washed-out and overexposed light give Teller’s iconic fashion photography a notable and refreshing candidness. But Tung takes his own spin on this process, injecting humility and a little more depth in his style, giving his subjects a warm context within their surroundings.
Tung's process – one which involves heavy collaboration – never starts the same way: “maybe I have an idea or someone else will have a starting point for me, like the stylist or art director,” he says. "The process can be easy or it can be more complex: mood boards, casting, location scouting. But once you start and are working to a shoot date, it can get a bit stressful, so you have to commit.”
It was a trip to Cuba to shoot at the Bienal de la Habana that Tung says is his favourite project so far. “It was so photogenic and the people were so friendly, it was an amazing experience.” And, with two children, inspiration is never hard to find: “everything is always so fresh with them. I love listening to their ideas and what they think is good or bad.” Children are, at the end of the day, perhaps the most unbiased and honest art critics.
“I’ve just finished shooting a lot of jobs and it’s a quiet time right now,” says Tung when we ask what he’s getting up to next, “which is good for the moment,” he finishes. Although there are some murmurings of projects in the works, Tung doesn’t really like to “talk about stuff that hasn't happened, in case I jinx it.”
GalleryCopyright © Tung Walsh, 2021
Copyright © Tung Walsh, 2021
About the Author
Dalia joined It’s Nice That as a news writer in July 2021 after graduating in English Literature from The University of Edinburgh. She's written for various indie publications such as Azeema and Notion, and ran her own magazine and newsletter platforming marginalised creativity.