How photographer Miles Aldridge brought fashion into the living room

(Venus Etcetera (after Titian) Miles Aldridge)

There’s something quite endearing about going back to one’s formative years for inspiration. Take Andy Warhol’s famous pop-art renderings of Campbell’s Soup – which he ate for dinner every night – or Edvard Munch’s macabre paintings, which stem from the ghost stories his father read to him as a child. More recently, it is the British fashion photographer Miles Aldridge who takes inspiration from his youth.

A small mirror in her mother’s lacquered purse; a battered paisley sofa; an old television: these are the memories that British fashion photographer Miles Aldridge associates with childhood. At 58, she is one of a group of like-minded contemporary artists who have established themselves through a preoccupation with nostalgia.

Throughout his 24-year career, he is both visionary photographer and daydreamer. Photographing the likes of Donatella Versace, Marina Abramović and Lily Cole for the likes of Vogue, The New York Times and Harper’s Bazaar. He has worked alongside some of fashion’s luminaries including former editor-in-chief, Franca Sozzani. “She was the Pope and I was Michelangelo, who she commissioned to paint the ceiling of Vogue Italia. Without her patronage I would not have been the artist I am today because she gave me carte blanche ”.

It was this carte blanche that prompted Aldridge to break new ground as an artist, evoking a sense of childlike wonder and imagination through his visually captivating imagery. For all his successes and accolades, Aldridge still feels like a bit of an outsider. “I think that’s a very part of being an artist,” he says. “I don’t feel like I’m everyone’s cup of tea and I really don’t want to be because I don’t want to be That easily palatable.”

When I speak to him in his prestigious King’s Cross studio, he is curious and hopeful, anticipating his latest online retrospective The Terror of Domestic Bliss. The exhibition, which he just opened at the Lyndsey Ingram gallery, features chromogenic prints, colored screen prints and Polaroids, and will draw on the themes “the false promise of luxury, the mysteries of family and how the surface often belies what lies beneath . “In speaking with Aldridge, it’s clear that he has a strong work ethic and flair for creativity. In addition to The Terror of Domestic Bliss, the photographer will publish his own book Please return Polaroidsa love letter to the medium of photography.

Wearing acid dresses with perfectly coiffed bleach-blonde hair, women of all ages and body types are staged and photographed in a Technicolor nightmarish dream. They are, at the same time, bizarre and scary, but always beautiful. “I reformulated the models as actresses of the films I wanted to make so instead of modeling the clothes, they were the protagonists of the story I was creating”, she tells me as she presents her favorite print, the 3D, a multicolored mise en scène of a woman that captures an epic in cinema.

    (Miles Aldridge 3-D)

(Miles Aldridge 3-D)

It was this love affair with cinema that triggered his initial curiosity for photography. Watching A Matter of Life and Death after his parents’ separation at the neighbor’s house was a seminal moment for the photographer, one that influenced him both professionally and emotionally. “The first nine years of my childhood were golden and then I entered reality,” he reflects. “I was in a foreign house without my mother or father and suddenly everything was different. The tea tastes different. Food is different. The bed is different, but watching this film I was transported into this universe of images”.

At that precise moment, the multicolored house he had grown up in, with music, psychedelic prints and extravagant furniture, had fallen apart. The glorious image of the family was shattered and he was left with not only the absence of his father, but also with a mother who wondered: ‘then what?’

The first nine years of my childhood were golden and then I entered reality

Yet the image of the house remains sharp for the acclaimed photographer, who soon after began translating the memories of his youth into stunning visual images. Appreciating that the split was not a recipe for disaster; rather, productivity and creativity. Portraying women for who they truly are – strong, beautiful and fiercely independent – in domesticated environments, has become the Aldridges calling.

    (New Utopias by Miles Aldridge)

(New Utopias by Miles Aldridge)

“There is always an overriding sense of confusion, discontent or uncertainty about the characters in my work. Who they are and how they got there. And that’s how I felt in the middle of a fast moving world.

Aldridge tries to find the beauty in the dark side of human nature. “Someone once said childhood is revisited, you know? I think images that take you to a dark place but then back to the light are as old as time. All the art I like deals with a kind of duality of man in terms of what is creepy and what is beautiful. It’s where you find meaning in the arts,” he says.

The Terror of Domestic Bliss airs until March 27 at the Lyndsey Ingram gallery and her new book Please Please return Polaroid will be published by Steidl in Spring 2023.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *