INTERVIEW: MILES ALDRIDGE

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FASHION FANTASIES ON ACID

When asked to describe himself in three words, British photographer Miles Aldridge replied:”Colorful, sunny and dark.” It is these very words that arguably best describe his work as well. Realistic, yet characterized by the use of bright, neon colors, Aldridge’s photos possess a surreal quality that hints at some of life’s darker and often erotic dimensions. While his work until 2004 mainly featured in the world’s leading glossies, it has since increasingly been exposed in art galleries and books.

Following in the footsteps of american heavyweight annie leibovitz, aldridge in 2009 was asked to produce the prestigious 2010 lavazza calendar. based on the theme of “the italian song,” his lavazza photos display all the signature trademarks the 45-year-old briton has become known for: glamour, color and a touch of surrealism. See for example his take on “va pensiero,” which shows a model all- in-white floating in mid-air between a roman statue and the Colloseum.

Some of his famous older pictures include those of a typical english street inhabited by high- heeled superwomen in neon-colored clothes; an anonymous back seat scene, in which an arm with a golden watch pulls up a mini skirt; and the intense close-up of French kiss: two pairs of brightly colored lips and a whirling tongue. Seeing the surreal and narrative qualities of his work, it should come as no surprise that aldridge cites filmmakers such as david lynch, Fellini and hitchcock among his greatest influences.

interestingly, aldridge never planned to become a fashion photographer. according to him it was but a matter of “luck,” as a model girlfriend once asked him to take some photos of her. When the editorial staff of british vogue saw them, it preferred his photos over her looks.

he has since worked for magazines around the world, yet especially praises his relation with italian vogue, which has always encouraged him to develop new ideas. “Without italian vogue my work wouldn’t exist,” he once said. “it is Franca Sozzani’s vision that has year after year allowed me to develop my ideas, encouraged my single- mindedness, while at the same time giving me an education in the history of beauty and style. We meet each season in paris. i bring sketches with my ideas (...) and she is always able to find a link between these ideas and what is on the runway.”

his first gallery exposition took place in amsterdam in 2004, followed by shows in Munich, hamburg and paris. in 2009, he was part of a new york group exhibition entitled “Weird beauty: Fashion photography now,” while hamiltons Gallery in london presented a solo show named “doll Face.”

it is perhaps no coincidence that young Miles pursued a creative career, seeing the family he was born in. his father, alan, an illustrator is known as “the Man with the kaleidoscope eyes” as he did he much of artwork for the beatles. his mother was a model. as a child Miles would sit on my father’s lap as he drew his pictures, while musicians as eric Clapton and elton John were friends of the family.

Llike his father, Miles is married to a (former) model, kristen McMenamy, with whom he has four children. and, like his father, Miles likes to draw. In fact, most of his photographs are born out of a sketch. With the help of karl lagerfeld, “pictures for photographers” was published in 2009. It is presents a collection of his most famous photos and the drawings that inspired them.

“If the world were pretty enough, i’d shoot on location all the time but the world is just not being designed with aesthetics as a priority,” Aldridge told Filep Motwary. “So, I prefer to rebuild the world instead of photographing the real one. My work is not just about a dream, but a dream of reality. it’s all amplified – but it is essentially from reality and essentially contemporary.”

The drawing however, only serves as a starting point, Aldridge emphasized that for a good photo he has to let go of the preconceived image and instead work with the specific qualities of the model. Aldridge plays down the difference between art and fashion photography, as these days art photographers take fashion pictures and many fashion photographers have exhibitions in galleries.

“I believe it is all conceptual,” he said. “the idea that a fashion photograph is just a record of a dress is no longer true. i have always believed that ideas/concepts are what define artists not the technique. ideas are all we have to say we are different from the next guy. i never approach my images from the point of view of a fashion collection. i am excited about ideas – not clothes.”

Asked about what he feels most proud of and why, Aldridge replied: “Surviving fashion for 15 years.”

ArtEli Rezkallah