This afternoon, on a crisp Autumn day in London Town, I paid a visit to the Miles Aldridge photographic exhibition, I Only Want You to Love Me, at the beautiful Somerset House.
This stylish and thought-provoking exhibition provides a retrospective of Aldridge's work and coincides with the publication of his glossy book of the same name published by Rizzoli. Aldridge was born in North London and his father is the graphic designer Alan Aldridge. He studied illustration at Central St Martin's and after a brief stint directing pop videos, he fell into fashion after sending some of the photos of a model girlfriend to British Vogue and they contacted him (as well as her). He started working almost immediately and has shooted for noted fashion designers such as Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent and Paul Smith.
Women and colour are Aldridge's main obsessions and this is arrestingly clear in his work. The photographs are visually beautiful, highly stylised and feature women posed in what on the surface appear to be traditional roles (secretary, housewife etc) but when you look deeper under the surface there is a sense of disturbance. The colours are deeply saturated from sugary candy pinks and beige to shocking magenta and verdant green and the composition is incredible.
All images shown in the exhibition are featured in magazines, the majority in Vogue Italia, and Aldridge's longest and most creative collaboration is with Editor-In-Chief Franco Sozzani who featured his work in a piece named Home Chic for Vogue Italia in October 2011 and Home Works in March 2008. In addition to the beautiful large-scale photographic prints produced throughout his career, visitors can see hand-drawn storyboards, drawings and polaroids that offer an intriguing and intimate insight into Aldridge's creative process.
The exhibition challenges the mind and polarises opinion. On the surface the technicolour images appear rather artificial, and the cinematic influences of David Lynch, Douglas Sirk and Alfred Hitchcock are apparent throughout. The photographs, however, are controversial - in my personal opinion, some of the shots seem to empathise with the models and others objectify and degrade them, leaving you wondering whether Aldridge actually likes women at all. The accompanying narrative to the exhibition suggests some of the models may seem indifferent and show emotional ambivalence, but in fact Aldridge wanted to present them in a state of contemplation and with a sense of hopelessness. Undeniably, some of the exaggerated prints are exploitative - a head pushed down on a bed, unnecessary exposure of the models bodies and them posed surrounded by broken bottles and plates in a suggestively violent scene.
Yet, whatever your opinion there is no mistaking that the prints provide striking, highly stylised fashion images with a powerful impact. Not to be missed.
To me, the great moments in Hollywood are close-ups of a woman's face, thinking, and she's just realised that her whole world is wrong.Until Sunday, 29 September Embankment Galleries East, South Wing, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA http://www.somersethouse.org.uk Tickets: http://www.somersethouse.org.uk/book-tickets/8d7b98b9-1438-4cec-9904-65d3dad2246b