On the most superficial level, Miles Aldridge’s photographs are nothing if not stylish: the retro, voluminous hairdos and chic polka-dotted dresses; his characteristic neon color palette; and the overtly sexy, almost cinematic scenes he creates are just so damn cool, like James-Dean-smoking-a-cigarette cool. On a deeper level, the icy, plastic faces of his models tell a story of the female psyche as a prisoner of societal pressures and norms. Aldridge forces his viewer to objectify his models as though they are trapped in the cage of their domestic roles like animals at the zoo; but the unnervingly wry humor of his scenes induces sympathy in the viewer for his jaded subjects, providing a process of catharsis rather than the simple comfort of aesthetic absorption.
We chatted with Miles about his style, his creative process, and some personal details of his daily life.
Art Zealous: What’s your morning routine?
Miles Aldridge: I make tea, read (normally fiction), and then walk to the pond on Hampstead Heath to swim.
AZ: We loved what you did with the Game of Thrones cover for Time. You’re particularly known for photos of women, yet GoT obviously has very strong, male leads. How does the experience of trying to capture men within your style differ from your usual preoccupation with women?
MA: It was great to shoot the cast of GoT. I treated the men and women the same, actually, and I particularly enjoyed photographing the two writers, David Weiss and Dan Benioff.
AZ: David Lynch has cited you as one of his favorite photographers, and certain elements of your work are rather Lynchian, especially the dark and eerie situations you create. Could you elaborate on what you admire in his work?
MA: David Lynch blew my mind when I was an art student. I went to the cinema to see his film, Blue Velvet, and the film was so shocking to me. What I love about his films is how the ordinary can become nightmarish and surreal. In Blue Velvet a simple walk in a park leads to a hacked off ear crawling with ants.
AZ: You are quite the film buff, and you seem to particularly enjoy Italian directors, most notably from the 50s and 60s. Is there something about the Italian directors that you feel particularly attracted to and that you subsequently aim to capture in your own work (i.e., as opposed to, say, directors of the French New Wave)?
MA: I love the history of cinema, and both French and Italian cinema from the 50’s and 60’s has had an influence on my work. Apart from the incredible creative ideas in the films, everyone is sooooo stylish!
AZ: Your fashion and advertising shoots prove to be just as visually stunning as your own, independent exhibition work, and you’ve talked a bit in other interviews about the creative processes for both mediums. Do you feel at all artistically constrained when shooting for the practical purpose of marketing, or is it just as creatively stimulating as your own, personal projects?
MA: I work on my own ideas all the time, and when I get a magazine commission I find a way to make the pictures mine.
AZ: How would you describe your own style?
MA: It is hard to describe my style, as it seems so natural to me. I am into theatrical recreation of life, not real life. I like the theatre, novels, and of course cinema, all of which are fictional. My photography is fictional but based on real experience, just like a novel.
AZ: You shoot with film rather than digitally. What’s the reason behind this? Is it about how it affects your process, or more about the effect it has on the final result (i.e., the quality of the picture itself)?
MA: I love the colours that I get from film. It is just far more colourful than digital. I also like the process of shooting on film as you don’t see the image until the next day when it is processed. This makes the shoot more concentrated and brings an intensity to the work that I like.
AZ: How do you know when you’ve achieved perfection in your shoots?
MA: I have an idea of the final image which I develop with preparatory drawings, but I am also very happy for this image to evolve as I shoot. I know when I have the shot; it is just instinctive.
AZ: In an interview with SI Style from a few years ago, you talked about how a subject’s emotion is distracting in photography, that it makes a picture “banal” and “transitory.” Do you feel this way about other art forms, or is that a characteristic that makes photography unique?
MA: This relates to my photography. I am not trying to record transitory emotions but something more eternal.
AZ: You also talked about love, and the fact that you were in love with your first model (your girlfriend). You also advise young and aspiring photographers to photograph their companions, because it helps them get used to judging when someone is beautiful. However, does this emotional concept of ‘love’ in the photo shoot contradict your thought that emotion makes a picture “banal” and “transitory”?
MA: Emotions are, of course, part of my work, but I just choose not to show them in an obvious way through the model or actress pretending to be in love or angry, etc. I express these feelings through the visuals in the image.
AZ: Have you thought any further about breaking into film directing or cinematography?
MA: Yes, every day, and every day I have something else I need to do.
AZ: You directed some pop music videos before breaking into photography. Does music still play a role in your life, whether casually or maybe even professionally?
MA: I use music on my shoots to get the right emotion in the studio. I play a lot of film soundtracks (Lynch Hitchcock etc). I have never taken a picture without music.
AZ: What do you think of the new Twin Peaks?
MA: Love it.
AZ: Do you enjoy using your phone’s camera, and do you dislike that everyone has suddenly become a photographer through mediums like Facebook, Instagram and all the other social media sites/apps?
MA: I love the iPhone. It’s so convenient to have a camera in my pocket for taking notes when casting or location scouting. Yes, anyone can be a photographer now, but the question remains: what do you want to say with your camera?
AZ: Any big projects coming up?
Top Photo // courtesy of the Miles Aldridge Studio