Tina Tyrell on her photo ‘Time Will Have Its Fancy’

For Contact Sheet, Document asks a photographer for the unseen story about the frame that has come to define their work. This week, Tina Tyrell shares the familial connection behind a 2014 portrait.

“A magazine called Bon commissioned this photograph for their poetry issue. I mentioned I was a fan of [W.H.] Auden, so they used his poem Time Will Have Its Fancy for the title.

“The apartment belonged to one of my aunt’s best friends, who moved into it in the late ’50s. Even though, she died at the end of 2014, it was exactly how it was decorated in the late ’50s. She hadn’t changed anything. It was like a time capsule.

“We were able to access this amazing, somewhat flamboyant taste. Her bedroom had Pepto-Bismol-pink walls with red carpet and gold trim. It was so very over the top. We had access to this authentic time warp that I actually had a long relationship with. My favorite way to take pictures is in an environment like this because it has such a story behind it and it contextualists the character you’re photographing.

“It’s a moment when my career came together. It was the first time where the fashion made sense with the model, and it all told a story that clicked in my mind. Part of the reason I love fashion is because in a photograph you only have a few things you can work with—the clothes and the face of the person. If you’re lucky, you have a good environment. Sometimes through those three elements, you can tell a story about something, about people.

“We were telling a story about being young, experimenting, going against the grain. The fact that there’s this time element. This aspect of him being young, but juxtaposed with something old, which is the 60-year-old apartment. I always love the idea of these junctures, where things don’t connect, but they are able to tell a bigger story.”