Miles Aldridge: Capturing Eternity
British photographer Miles Aldridge has perfected the art of capturing the aspects of human life in film, with all its bright moments and its dark dramas. With his roots in fashion photography – working with the likes of Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld – as well as drawing inspiration from the artists before him, he has become one of the most significant contemporary photographers yet. His signature style involves saturated spaces and bizarre moments that defy the definition of photography as freezing a moment in time. Instead, he captures the essence of the struggle between public and private, confined in the quiet moments of urban stillness.
Art in Film
Miles Aldridge’s work indicates a near-eternal struggle between the most intimate of selves and the public world which seeks to expose it. The private self is, at its most tangible and noticeable, encased in homes and rooms, and Aldridge uses these settings to portray lives lived away from the scrutinising eye of society.
His stylised interiors are glimpses of private moments of intrigue and passion, but always in isolation. At home, the subjects of his photographs – usually women – are caught in a state of discontent, challenging the concept of ‘domestic bliss’. He poses his subjects in states that are the opposite of homely: lighting a cigarette with a stove in Home Works #3, a close-up shot of a woman scratching at the wall – either in pain or passion – and a solitary woman avoiding her reflection while blow-drying her hair in Chromo Thriller #2, to name a few. Colour and shadow tease each other out in frames that give his models no exits. Similarly, there is no resolution to the conflict or freedom from this juxtaposition.
In glossy and vivid colours, a cinematic melodrama also unfolds in Aldridge’s work, reminiscent of the art pop movement fused with the mannequin, too-perfect feminine of the ideal 50s suburban dream. Troubled expressions, surreal settings and an air of secrecy and curiosity surround his female subjects. Some of them hold no expression at all. He twists fantasy by filling bleak homes with objects that retain colour and vigour alongside human occupants who are numb to their environment.
He presents saturated photographs that constantly hold an undertone of disconcerting voyeuristic pleasure. I Only Want You To Love Me, exhibited at Somerset House, is an iconic example of Aldridge’s oeuvre: unsettling the viewer by constantly portraying subjects on the verge of or in the middle of something almost-macabre, horrific or tantalising, but seemingly open to always being viewed in these moments of standing at the precipice.
And Art Imitates Life
Aldridge poses that humanity will always have its struggles and explores this constantly in photographs that defy the boundaries of expression, limited only by the frame. He attributes the sense of discomfort to “the endless perversities of human existence” – his photographs are not meant to be the crafted beauty of fashion magazines, no matter how glamorous or saturated they are, but are meant to speak to the unspeakable facets and details of human life.
To say that Aldridge preserves moments through photography would be erroneous, however. He takes direction from the likes of Mark Gertler’s Merry Go Round, depicting a seemingly endless moment of revolution that both military and civilian cannot find an escape. He notes this as an early inspiration and has attempted to transform it into a more modern photographic version. The result was a frieze that isolated key points in the original painting, and then infused both the dream-like colours of Gertler’s original piece and Aldridge’s own personal, glossy and glamorous touch. The essence of Merry Go Round remained nevertheless, projecting a sense of unease that is “kind of sweet, but has this amazing kind of menace”.
Aldridge kept the feeling of foreboding endlessness within fragments of time where people may seem surrounded but are, in truth, isolated – an evocation that Aldridge perpetuates, rather than providing a snapshot of the moment wherein it occurs.
His distinctive, painting-like style derives from these early inspirations. Just like Gertler, time does not stop for anybody in Aldridge’s portraitures. Time cannot be captured; only remembered. There will always be a conflict between private and public identities, held at a delicate balance on Aldridge’s forgotten mirrors, broken bottles and spilled wine.
Aldridge continues to portray the eternal struggle of human nature in masterful form. His work may be trapped in rooms, spaces and in the frame of film, but the attention to the intimate details of the lives of his subjects are what draws Casper & Casper to the work of Miles Aldridge. Aldridge never fails to draw upon the mysteries of suburbia and all the concepts, dynamics and intricacies of domesticity attached to it, and Casper & Casper are inspired by his distinctive style and its intense exploration of the dynamics of individual lives.
View more of Miles Aldridge’s work on his website.