You might know him for photographing a burning $100,000 Birkin bag, dating the daughter of Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood, or working with the biggest artists of our time — such as Lindsay Lohan, Mischa Barton, and Demi Lovato — to make art.
But what Tyler Shields really wants to be known for is inspiring others.
I got the opportunity to meet the man behind the camera (he’s also an author and music video director) as he prepared for his opening event at Miller Gallery. It was one of the most interesting, inspiring and surprisingly casual and down-to-earth conversations I’ve had in a long time. Not exactly what I was expecting from someone who takes pictures of Lindsay Lohan holding bloody knives.
He grew up in Florida and moved to California with exactly $137 to his name. He even recalled a time when he lived off a pizza for an entire week, truly living the “starving artist” life.
Things turned around for him when he met character actor Ben Foster, who was working on X Men at the time. While Tyler originally went to California to direct music videos, he also dabbled in photography. He did a shoot with Foster, and snapped a pic of him jumping off a building — while it only showed his back, Foster loved it. The buzz began for Tyler’s work and other celebs started to seek him out for avant-garde shoots.
He would pick up A-list actors in his ’94 Ford Camry and they’d spend the day together doing a shoot as if they were childhood friends. That’s what I loved about Tyler – he has a sincerity that immediately makes you feel comfortable around him. He says that’s gone a long way for him, and to keep himself humble and grounded, he makes an effort every day to be thankful for his talents and circumstances that have led him where he is today. “Every day, I stop everything for a few minutes just to randomly give thanks,” he said. “So many people who quickly come into money and fame get focused on more money and more fame. But I want to focus on being happy and thankful.”
Part of what keeps him focused and happy is inspiring others, which is why he does things like visiting Summit Country Day School to motivate young minds. “I like to make people realize that they can do anything they want to if they truly dedicate themselves to it,” he says. “People get told ‘no’ so much in life, but if they were told ‘yes’ a little more, a lot of lives would be different. I want to be the one that tells them ‘yes.'”
You can meet Tyler yourself tonight at Miller Gallery in Hyde Park, which is part of the Fotofocus series of events. Tyler is exhibiting across America and Europe with solo shows in LA, NY, Cincinnati, Moscow and London this year. Click here to learn more.