Punks, drag queens, mods, men wearing dresses (or almost nothing at all), bra-less girls in men’s suits with severe bobs, tattoos, piercings, unctuous flesh and layers of tulle, pink hair, blue hair, who-gives-a-fuck hair—this is the scene on a recent evening at Annabel’s, London’s smartest members club, on the night of photographer Tim Walker’s after-party following the opening of “Wonderful Things,” his triumphant new show at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Amid all this flamboyance and peacocking stands Walker in a custom Stefano Pilati skirt-suit (one of five commissioned for the launch), with his co-host, British Vogue editor Edward Enninful, by his side. It could be a tableau vivant of the photographer’s work, a mash-up of London’s newly emerging beautiful oddities; the raw creative talent that has been slowly simmering and transmogrifying in the East End. Which is where, one week previously, I met with the quiet lensman in his spare and orderly studio.

An Upstanding Citizen

Walker, 48, sits at the head of a utilitarian office table that is dominated by photography books. He wears black shorts and a T-shirt, just back from a work-out. He is handsome, soigné but unshaven, lean, almost wiry. When he smiles, a distinct silver incisor glints. But it’s the way he speaks, with a soporific tranquility and restraint, that underscores the juxtaposition of this upright man and his voluptuously eccentric output. You stare into his eyes longer than you should; his diffident manner is so at odds with the curiosity cabinet of his work.