1 November 2006
If life imitates art, then Miles Aldridge could be the perfect subject for an updated version of the film Blow Lip. Born in London in 1964, his father is the celebrated art director Alan Aldridge, who worked with the Beatles, the Stones and Warhol. Miles was the sort of kid who got picked up from school by Eric Clapton, had his photo taken by Lord Snowdon, learned to play the electric guitar, studied illustration at Saint Martin’s and then grew up to marry American super-model Kristen McMenamy. And, along the way, became one of contemporary fashion photography’s most recognisable signatures.
‘In London in about 1993, ‘grunge’ happened – in music, in fashion and in photography,’ says Aldridge, referring to the era that spawned Kate Moss, heroin chic and endless ‘realist’ fashion photo shoots. ‘I lived in an East End council flat with a beautiful girlfriend. I guess that I was living exactly the life David Sims, Corinne Day and everyone else was photographing,’ At the time, Aldridge was directing pop promos for British groups such as The Charlatans and The Verve, and it was only when, ‘almost by accident’, British Vogue asked him to take some black and white shots of his model girlfriend, did he think about photography as anything other than a hobby. Referencing Hitchcock, Lynch and Fellini, Aldridge embraced a far more filmic and fantastical approach to photography than his London peers, something that immediately set him apart from the aesthetic du jour. ‘I suppose I found a way to make grunge more palatable… I was just trying f0 catch a glimpse of something revolting or ugly, yet make it sumptuous and beautiful.’
Over the past decade though, Aldridge’s work and his sense of beauty has dramatically changed. ‘Nowadays, it is more subtle, less deliberately antagonistic, no longer about the car-crash of emotion. It implies strangeness through atmosphere.’ It’s an evolution that’s brought Aldridge into the pages of leading fashion magazines and advertising campaigns. And, now, his first solo exhibition, The Cabinet, which opens this month in Amsterdam’s Reflex New Art Gallery. Among the post-grunge realism of Juergen Teller, the superslick Guy Bourdin/Paul Outerbridge interpretations of Mert & Marcus and Mario Testino’s continuing homage to Cecil Beaton-esque glamour, lies the work of Miles Aldridge: hyperreal, bold, macabre and imposing. Or, as the photographer himself likes to sim up,’sunny but spooky’.