It’s the glossy and vivid Willy Wonka style colours of Miles Aldridge’s images that instantly grab your attention, but it’s the subjects in the photographs that hold the secret. Beautiful creatures, enveloped by glamour and luxury are tainted by experience: blank faces, troubled expressions and often surreal yet domestic scenes pepper the otherwise idyllic set up. This something a little bit ‘off’ is indefinable, something you can’t quite put your finger on or grasp entirely, but ever present: an underlying disturbance hovering just out of shot.
Ahead of the launch of his new book and exhibition at Somerset House, we spoke to Miles to unravel this mystery and find out more about these damsels in distress…
Dazed Digital: There is a very distinct flow and identity throughout ‘I Only Want You To Love Me’.
Miles Aldridge: Yes exactly, they are very much from my own universe. I fell into fashion photography and I was quite happy to be a studio photographer, but there came a point where I felt incredibly despondent about it and didn’t like any of it! I think at that point I questioned myself quite hard. I looked at some of my heroes and then realised that I needed a signature to my work. I decided to work in a very precise way, with the right props, the right composition. I wanted to make my images look like they were from a Hollywood musical – I wanted it to be considered.
DD: There is always this sense of discomfort in your images. Where does this come from?
Miles Aldridge: I think it’s from reading the newspapers. I look at fashion magazines and at people from incredibly beautiful worlds. But when you pick up a newspaper, you realise that the world we live in is just on the verges of some horrific thing we will read about the next day. There are endless perversities of human existence.
DD: How do you feel about the fashion world, and how they glamorise reality?
Miles Aldridge: I think fashion photographers are good when they don’t just make pretty things. They should make you question and think – question the world we live in. I think my stuff, because it’s in the pages of fashion magazines, can be seen as being quite shocking, because the images on either side of it might be just of a model in front of a grey background. I couldn’t accept taking those kinds of pictures anymore. I didn’t want to be at the mercy of that world.
When you pick up a newspaper, you realise that the world we live in is just on the verges of some horrific thing we will read about the next day.
DD: Do you think there is still pressure for women to adhere to these feminine qualities and behaviours? Do you work against this?
Miles Aldridge: I think my work plays with that. We live in a very postmodern world, so everything is up for grabs in terms of history. We consume so much. I cross-reference all the time in a complex way, and I do that because my audience is complex. They understand the message coming through in the pictures and relate to them because of things they’ve seen or experienced themselves. I don’t think people are particularly interested in golden happy people; they are interested in people who are quite fragile.
DD: Could you tell me the about the name of the exhibition and where it came from?
Miles Aldridge: It’s referring to things that we might want to do or change about ourselves to be more loveable. What my work is really about is feelings. My images have previously been criticised for being quite mannequin like, but these aren’t just mannequins, these are people – or at least, representations of people. There is a resonance there.
DD: What’s next?
Miles Aldridge: To be completely honest, the Somerset House exhibition has been such a huge project. I have absolutely no plans to do anything ever again!!
‘I Only Want You To Love Me’ is published by Rizzoli and is out now. An exhibition of the same name opens this week, from 10th July – 28th September at Somerset House in the Embankment East Galleries. Running alongside this exhibition will be Aldridge’s first showing at the Brancolini Grimaldi, from 12th July – 28th September.