Tyler Shields first made a name for himself as a professional inline skater and X Games competitor before making headlines as one of America's edgiest and controversial photographers.
Tyler caused a stir in 2010 when he photographed Lindsay Lohan with a gun and again in 2012 when he photographed Francesca Eastwood destroying a Hermes Birkin Bag with a price tag of $100,000. The public crowd foul yet again when he photographed Glee star Heather Morris "beaten" and bruised, many said he was making light of abusive treatment towards women.
When Shields made his way to the Miller Gallery for a book signing of The Dirty Side of Glamour, I had a chance to talk to the man behind the mask (or lens in this case) to get a better understanding of his photography and why his work leans toward the more violent and controversial.
"When I moved to L.A. I met a lot of very glamorous people in gross places," said Shields of the inspiration behind his book. "Fame is a drug. People just want to be famous to be famous and it eats at them and turns them into monsters."
When I asked him why his work tends to be bloody, violent in nature or just plain twisted, he explains, "There's violence in the news. I like the idea of showing a version of the world the way I see it." He references his photo of seated police offers being sprayed with pepper spray by two women which was inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protestors, students at UC Davis, who were seated in a line a sprayed with pepper spray by police back in 2011.
"When you see the police being sprayed it becomes more haunting."
The Miller Gallery is the surprising member on the short list of galleries that Tyler works with; so what's the draw of the Queen City? Other than his close friendship with the Miller family, Tyler says Cincinnati has some of the "friendliest, supportive people" and some of the coolest places to shoot. So cool in fact Millery Gallery's exhibit of Tyler's work entitled "Tyler Shields: Shot In Cincinnati" features images that were all photographed here in Cincinnati and even appear in his book.
"Cincinnati has become of my favorites spots to shoot. I need to shoot a film here. Seeing the winding river through the city, great architecture, riding a horse through the hills of Kentucky; it seemed like every road we took lent itself to a new discovery. Also, it has the friendliest police department ever, only place I have ever left without an arrest or ticket," he has said of the city.
To aspiring photographers he says, "A lot of people see something that works and try to copy the formula. But that can only take you so far. Showcase your own thing; trial and error."
Don't take our city for granted Cincinnatians and be sure to check out the Miller Gallery in Hyde Park!
If you'd like to purchase a copy of Tyler's book, The Dirty Side of Glamour, visit his website.