Miles Aldridge – ‘I Only Want You To Love Me’ at Somerset House, London.
Somerset House is currently home to an exhibition, the largest to date, of photographs, drawing, sketches and magazines from the world-renowned fashion photographer, Miles Aldridge.
From his degree in illustration at Central St Martins, and brief dabble in directing music videos, Aldridge isn’t your average fashion photographer’s background – in fact, nothing about his work is very conventional either. Aldridge’s shoots are conducted in an almost theatrical manner; he explains he works with film rather than to shooting static frame by frame. This motion is apparent in each work. The boldness of colour alongside the high definition creates his near-unique, cinematic quality.
Aldridge ignores the parameters of typical fashion photography and takes his works to a level beyond the immediate beauty. Beyond the aesthetics, extravagance and debauchery which appear natural in a glossy copy of the latest Vogue Italia; Miles’ focus is always the women, the stunningly beautiful women with blank-expressions. Past the blood-red ketchup splatter on the black and white tiles, the strikingly dazed housewives in the shopping aisle and the opulent Virgin; there is a distance between the women, the empty gazes suggest a deeper sense of neurosis and trouble.
The works are busy with colour, grandeur and opulence but if you consider the scenes, Aldridge’s work, arguably, has a darker side; the women are perceived as almost broken. The absence of delicate materials and muted hues makes the women’s fragility even more apparent, their emotionless eyes seem to hide a story that they want to tell but their bold clothing and surroundings do not allow for a moment to disclose their anxieties. It is important to note that Aldridge states that his work is not a social commentary, but an exploration of the human condition in all its complexity.
Parallel to the notion of exploration, Aldridge’s work can be appreciated on varying levels. The images have multiple layers, meanings and stories, but he leaves it to you to explore and decide how deep you want to read into them.
Take ‘The Rooms #2’ (below).
Initially, there is an attractive, finely-dressed woman, submerged in luxuriously rich colours. A bit deeper and you have a handsome model clothed in high couture, surrounded by objects which hint at hedonism, perhaps the theme for this season’s campaign. Deeper again, you can analyse the techniques which were involved, the use of film to capture the moment of the split objects, the gentle folds of the material captured in a way you expect them to move in a slight breeze. Deeper again, who is this elegant woman? Why is she lay on the floor, has she fallen, been pushed, overdosed? If so, then why? Deeper again, what is Aldridge trying to say about the human condition? Is it because we are human that we are never satisfied? Are we all dangerously materialistic, or once we acquired everything, do we start to lose other parts of ourselves? It is simply up to you to interpret as you wish.
His works, in this exhibition in particular, are like an adult picture-book. You are given the character and the scene, the rest is up to you. It is your choice to make is as thrilling and debauched, tragic and opulent, or splendid and conventional as you want.