A Disturbing Look Behind the Dazzling Facade

By Dirk van Versendaal

26 March 2018

The photo series by the Englishman Miles Aldridge are perfectly illuminated, subtle chamber plays. Half tragedy, half comedy, they often feed in his biography.


There are strong autobiographical elements in his pictures, says Miles Aldridge. The English photographer, born in 1964, then speaks of references to his childhood, of his mother – ‘who is in all these mysterious women’ in his photos. Rita Aldridge died when her son was in his late twenties. Since then he has been puzzling over ‘who she was’. He seeks answers in a highly polished luxury world in which it shines hysterically, but beneath the surfaces of which it simmers darkly. There is a worm in all the beauty, loneliness oozes out between the cheerful colours and perfect faces – nowhere else does solitude look so chic.


‘I am not fascinated by the beautiful, but by the abyss behind the shiny facade’, says Aldridge. Fashion photographers like to say that, in truth they fascinate both. In fact, Aldridge not only has a downright obsession with beautiful women, he was always surrounded by them: his sister Saffron has become a model as well as his two half-sisters Ruby and the Victoria’s Secret angel Lily. Aldridge was married to Kristen McMenamy, a US supermodel of the 90s, for 16 years. She walked in Karl Lagerfeld’s dress and on his arm 1997 to the wedding altar, while Naomi Campbell was the bridesmaid. McMenamy and Aldridge have two sons together, his daughter from his first marriage, Rita, is now 20. The Aldridge clan is familiar with patchwork and relationship zigzags: Miles has seven siblings and half siblings.


Miles Aldridge’s father created record covers for the Beatles


His father Alan was a celebrated illustrator of Psychedelic Art. He designed record covers for The Who and books for the Beatles, was friends with Eric Clapton and Elton John and introduced his son to pop art, comic drawings and religious imagery. ‘When I was little I wanted to be like my father. He had the best job in the world, he had the best life.’ Unfortunately, he then left his wife and children and in 1976 moved to California to join the ‘Playboy’ bunny Laura Lyons. From now on, postcards were the means of communication between father and son.


When Miles’ mother Rita was 49, she died of cancer. She left her son with many unanswered questions. Even if only women appear in Aldridge’s dream-like pictures, men are always present, if not in the picture, then always perceptible as a threat. Even when they are absent, they determine the way the women behave, dress, put on make-up, look past the camera – and live.


Aldridge grew up in the London borough of Hampstead and attended the renowned Saint Martin’s College. He wanted to be a film director. It is obvious that his artistic role models are Fellini and Hitchcock, David Lynch and Pedro Almodóvar. When he took up photography in the late 1990s – after a few years directing video spots – the foothills of the grunge era, hunger pangs like Kate Moss and poorly lit scenes dominated the aesthetic of British fashion photography. Street style magazines like ‘The Face’ showed tired, offended faces and celebrated the ugliness of everyday life. Aldridge countered the gray veil of this photorealism with his flawless glossy photographs, beautiful androids between perfectly lit backdrops. He caught the eyes of those who were hurrying through fashion magazines and were overwhelmed by the images and poses that were always the same. It was the French Numéro and above all the Italian Vogue that Aldridge discovered, promoted and made him a star.


The next picture artist from Aldridge seems to be growing up. 14-year-old Arthur has recently started selling clothes on the Internet to supplement his pocket money, his father proudly says. ‘He’s always asking me which lens to use, how to get the background light and what to watch out for if the clothes have reflective plates. I really enjoy answering these questions for him.’

A Disturbing Look Behind the Dazzling Facade


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