Photographer Tyler Shields on controversial pictures of 'Glee' star: 'Feelings were hurt. That was not my intention.'

On Friday night, celebrity photographer Tyler Shields opened up his inbox to something he’d never seen before: 25,000 unread e-mails.

A little more than 24 hours earlier, photos Shields took of Glee star Heather Morris had hit the Internet. In the series, available for view on his site, Morris is depicted, as Tyler explains to EW, “crazy Barbie,” destroying ironing boards and “in power” as she fights her constraints. But that’s not how at least 25,000 people saw it. “I’ve had crazy responses to stuff, but this is the most chaos I’ve seen from people,” says Shields, who has captured some of entertainment’s most well-known young faces in envelope-pushing (and often bloody) photoshoots.

Rita Smith, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, tells EW that the photos “give the impression that she was enjoying the process.” She continues: “It leaves the impression that somehow violence is glamorous and sexy. And that’s not how women who I have ever talked to feel, especially right after an assault.” And the young audience who follow the actress, she says, could misinterpret whatever message was intended. “That was one of the thoughts that went through my mind. It’s not just young women; young men are also getting a fairly conflicting message about violence.”

As more death threats pour in (ranging from “I hope you die” to “I’m going to hunt you down,” by his account), Shields stands by his work. “I completely have no regrets about the photoshoot,” he says. “Not one percent. But I regret that feelings were hurt. That was never my intention…I think a lot of people think it’s fashion photography, and it’s not. I’m an artist. This isn’t a clothing ad campaign. It’s an art piece we did together.” Shields, whose mother was a victim of domestic abuse, says he can’t control interpretation (though his mom gave her approval). But “while the world’s listening,” he figured he’d do some good by auctioning off three of the photographs for $100,000 a piece. Proceeds will go to domestic abuse awareness.

For her part, Morris has not spoken publicly about the matter. “She’s fine,” Shields says. “She’s working on Glee right now, but she’s fine. It’s not like she called me in tears. She’s a smart girl. She gets it.”

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Comments (48 total) Add your comment
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  • Anna

    I love how media outlets fail to show other photos. Only the ones that will get a resoponse. There is one where Heather has a guy tied up and is holding the iron to a guys “area” and that could be showed as fighting back. Photos are posted in a series, showing what leads to another. The first pitcure is of her hanging from a pole with no black eye. Of course people only want to post the pictures that will get people talking. Its not the photographers or Heathers fault that people are idiots.

    • Miranda

      The pictures are designed to get people talking. Otherwise, what’s the point? Unless he’s just that stupid.

      • Captain

        Everything Tyler Shields does is to shock people. He tries to get a reaction from people, good or bad (mostly bad). That’s why I don’t consider anything he does “art.” It’s not art if it’s only made to get press.

      • Jenny

        Captain the fact you don’t think its art and know all about it makes it art!

    • Fred

      Obviously these people have never dealt with domestic violence; if they had they would never have been so irresponsible to put pictures like that up.; I didn’t especially like mine and they were a lot worse. You want to help a follow a sister get strong., be there and let them be their own beautiful person God want them to be.

  • Jenny

    I love Tyler Shields he is my favorite Artist Warhol Banksy and Shields top 3 of all time no one has ever done it better.

  • Kat

    The pictures he’s done with Lindsay are disgusting too. The ones of her covered in blood holding a knife? He just looks for controversy.

    • sally

      They are silly post-modern garbage. I don’t take anything she does seriously. Why should we?

  • John

    Lord Tubbington NO! speak with your words not your paws

    • Tom

      I heart this comment

  • Dan

    The only photoshot Tyler Shields have done that I can remember liking was with Summer Glau. The video with her dancing was amazing and beautiful art.
    The pictures with Heather are just made for shock value, kinda sad considering what a talented dancer she is. He could have shown more of that instead of this so called art.

  • John

    Yes, people, threaten to kill him in order to express how hurt you are by his ‘violent’ photos.

    Morons.

    • Cris

      Well said

    • John

      I didn’t threaten to kill only castrate so there don’t you feel silly now.

    • Katie

      That is exactly what I was thinking! Idiots…

  • RayT

    I am so sick of artists apologizing to these mental deficients for their work. It makes me respect them so much less as an artist. None of the greats (photographers, painters, visual artists, etc.) would EVER even think about apologizing to the “moral majority” for a piece that is irreverant, sacrilegious, or controversial. If you’re not going to stand up for your work, then just make something vanilla and collect your paycheck from the client.

    • GaryF

      I’m sick of political statements masquerading as art. Here’s an idea, why don’t we return art to it’s self. Art doesn’t need political meaning. It needs beauty and mystery to intrigue, not some hamfisted attempt at making a statement. This stuff is garbage that much is plain, but the people taking it seriously really need to get a life.

  • Miranda

    I Googled some of his pictures. There’s one with Hayden Panettiere where she looks as if she’s performing a sex act on a gun. He’s obviously goes for shock value so I don’t get why he’s backing down now that he’s getting attention for it. That said, anyone who would issue a death threat over these photos is nuttier than he is.

    • brittany

      I actually went and looked at MOST of his pics on the website. Although some had a “shock value” effect, many were just regular people in regular poses….some were actually quite sweet, particularly the one with “love” in the mirror. Just because YOU and other Google users choose only to focus on the pictures with “obvious shock value” does not mean that’s all HE does. Also, “Shields stands by his work. “ does not sound at all like he’s “backing down now that he’s getting attention for it”.

  • Captain

    His original title for the photo set was “Bruised-up barbie” or something like that, which shows he was trying to show domestic violence in a lighter way. This guy just tries to be controversial. It’s kind of sad.

    • elizabeth shields

      That is not true, I know absolutely that what gave him the idea for morris’ shot, who he adores is not what you or any one would think. Tyler never thought of abuse, quite the opposite. He also does not try to be controversial and he isn’t said. Trust me if you knew him you would know. Have a nice day! Really!

  • Javadude54

    And then I go read a True Blood story and read all the posts from women complaining because there isn’t enough sex and violence on the show….

    • Erin

      True Blood is a TV show, escapism. I mean it’s about freaking vampires as such there’s context there. Movies, fictional books – not real. These photos are different. Theres no real backstory here is there? They’re like this for the sake of what, entertainment? And as other have said upthread he’s just going for sensationalism, seeking attention. I don’t think bruises and blood are attractive at all. I have no problem with that in a movie but in a portrait of an actress? I think it’s a bit classless and tacky on both Heather and Tyler’s parts. Most of the photos are fine. The one with the blackeye – no.

      • Jeri

        Uh…these photos aren’t “real” either.

      • Tom

        Why would you not have a problem with in a movie but you would in photo? People have been trying to tell stories, express points of view, etc… for as long as there have been people and we use whatever medium is available to them at the time. Prior to movies, photos were one of the ways this was done. So why can’t someone go back to that medium to showcase his art? Now that movies are here can we only use movies? And you specifically mentioned ‘portrait of an actress’. Would it be okay if it wasn’t an actress? Frankly your argument is all holes and no donut. Better luck next time.

    • Diego

      Pistols Really evident atemmysry. Right side was pretty smooth. Left side was rough mainly due to not being able to keep my right leg lifted out straight. Might be some tight hamstringsTGU used 35# dumbell, I have found it easier with a kettlebell. Shoulder was the weak link on both sides.WOD 12:59HrPsU were done in sets of 10. Rest periods should have been shorter esp in the front 50.

  • Monica

    Tyler is an artist. He is not just a photographer. His photos are his artwork and sometimes artwork is controversial. But even the most controversial stuff is the most beautiful. And if people cant see that, then I feel sorry for them.

  • Marianne

    So the people are upset that the photos are violent and yet turn around and threaten to kill him. Wow. Pot meet kettle.

  • Amy

    Yes, because when I saw these photos, I thought to myself, “Wow! Now i want someone to give me a black eye! That looks like fun! I want someone to beat me up!”

    • Ames

      Also, is there only one way for a girl to get a black eye? Black eye + girl = domestic abuse? Not hit by a softball or in a car accident, but only a man hit her. I really don’t understand the logic at work here.

  • Abby

    ha I love the irony… I’m going to KILL YOU because you depicted violence!! grrr! bahahahah IDIOTS

  • p4

    dudes just like totally weird wanting to make his photos like horror movies or somethin. got some issues man. i am surprised the actresses and actors in the pics go along with it. um….ew

    • Jenny

      If you dont get it you dont understand it

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