Photographs in heightened color depict women posing in piquant, surreal scenes. They represent a sensuous and uncanny aesthetics that draws on the codes of Hollywood cinema (most notably David Lynch). Miles Aldridge’s trademark is unmistakable and alluring: in addition to publication in numerous magazines (Vogue Italia, Time…), since 2013 his works have been part of international museum collections (the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Palais Galliera in Paris, and the International Center of Photography in New York…).
A body of work centered on the mise-en-scène
According to Aldridge, “nowadays, anybody can take a decent enough photograph”; what interests him is above all to explore the possibilities of the medium and the task of the photographer. On the occasion of an exhibition dedicated to his work at the Lindsey Ingram Gallery in London in 2017–18, he stated: “In this show I am thinking about how photographic images have been consumed and asking the question: do they have to be photographs?” The mise-en-scène is one way he responds to this question, thus asserting his subject: “I like the formal mise-en-scène. I think that fiction and theatricality can be more truthful than documenting reality, especially in this age of fake news.”
Although Miles Aldridge is first of all a fashion photographer, his work is full of irony. By placing his models in manicured yet stifling interiors, emphasizing minute details, he picks apart modern domestic lifestyles and, by extension, constricting stereotypes of femininity.
His references to consumer society and his use of bright, saturated colors inevitably tie him to Pop Art. Its influence extends to Aldridge’s recent exploration of the techniques of screenprinting.
Screenprinting—a step beyond the photographic medium
In 2017, Aldridge did a series of images featuring subverted Penguin book covers by the artist Harland Miller. Miller is known for his mock covers poking fun at Penguin’s humanities paperback series and adopting the publisher’s signature graphic design, made popular in the 1970s, including the massive use of abstract and Op-Art works. Miller’s approach, which explores the problematic relationship between culture and mainstream, is doubly reinforced in Aldridge’s tableaus which juxtapose his own universe through the use of screenprinting. The medium allows Aldridge to obtain creamy colors and to approximate the texture of 1950s–60s’ pinups and comic books. The critique thus comes a full circle.
By including Polaroids and preparatory drawings, the exhibition sheds light on the artist’s creative process, effectively foregrounding his growing desire to question his work as a photographer. Aldridge’s explorations increasingly take him beyond the medium, as evidenced by his collaborations with visual artists (Maurizio Cattelan, 2017) and his dialog with other photographers (Todd Hido, 2018).
By Sophie Puig
Miles Aldridge, Screenprints, Polaroids and Drawings
From February 28 to May 4, 2019
Christophe Guye Galerie, Dufourstrasse 31, CH–8008 Zürich