Process: Vintage Polaroids and Contact Sheets 1999 – 2018
Lyndsey Ingram Gallery
27 July – 12 September 2021
Aptly named ‘Process’, this exhibition of small format photographic works by Miles Aldridge illustrates the artistic journey from initial idea to final image. Through this progression, the image is captured first on Polaroid before being shot on colour negative film. Once processed in his lab, the frames are printed up as contact sheets for the artist to review. After careful edits and annotations, the final image is chosen. Each of these stages is essential to Aldridge’s practice as, unlike most photographers working today, he continues to work with traditional film rather than digitally. A close look at these precursors to his fully realised photographs reveals their own unique character and give us a keen insight into the artist’s working method.
The Polaroids and contact sheets included in this exhibition have come directly from the artist’s archive and span over 20 years of his career. Each has been carefully chosen for the insights they offer into some of his most iconic images and because of their own particular beauty, which is often spontaneous and unexpected.
This is the first time Aldridge’s contact sheets have been publically shown and we are delighted to be able to include several examples in this exhibition. They are rich with markings, notation, and edits – evidence of the artist’s hand and witness to his creative decision-making. Each sheet tells a story as an image unfolds from one shot to the next – a model’s eyes slowly open and close, a glass is raised and lowered, a diamond ring is fractionally moved to capture the different reflections of light. Moment to moment, we see the gentle shifts and subtle nuances that Aldridge relentlessly refines in pursuit of the perfect image. Once all the film is shot and the negatives are laid out on the contact sheets, he is able to carefully examine each frame, looking for the particular still that will become the final photograph.
Alongside the contact sheets, we have included a selection of Polaroids. These have all been newly released from the studio archive and are inc-luded in the forthcoming book – ‘Please, Please Return Polaroid’. This is the second book dedicated solely to Aldridge’s’ Polaroids and contains both recent work and earlier projects. Described by Aldridge as ‘sketches’, the Polaroids offer an intimate glimpse into the early stages of an image’s development, where his experiments with light and composition are laid bare.
Seen together in this exhibition, the Polaroids and contact sheets show the balance between consideration and spontaneity embedded in Aldridge’s artistic process. Where an idea is discovered, repeated, refined, and examined until eventually, the final image emerges.