Miles Aldridge: ‘High-Gloss’
Narratives of Fractured Beauty
by Zara Kand
March 7, 2022
Glamour meets ennui: In High-Gloss, on view at Fahey Klein Gallery, photographer Miles Aldridge lures us with sumptuous female subjects in vibrant candied colors. Discontented expressions, however, hint that all may not necessarily be well beneath these dazzling visages.
These photographic works (from 2005-2021) facetiously portray lavish domestic settings, in mid-century style, that would be considered idyllic by most standards. With opulent headboards, chic kitchenettes and lazy pools, what housewife wouldn’t be satisfied? Well known for his mise-en-scènes detail, Aldridge has a talent for creating theatrical tableaux in which both model and environment play an equally important role in his striking compositions. Each photograph in this series suggests a narrative of concealed strife, the full plot being left to the viewer’s imagination.
For example, Venus Etcetera (after Titian) portrays a young housewife tending to a morning coffee routine in the kitchen. Her form, half-veiled by an open satin robe, is slumped over the counter, upon which an empty carton lays on its side in a pool of milk, while the tea kettle is in full-blast steam mode. All this goes unnoticed: By the faraway look in her eyes, it seems her regular sense of spousal duty has been interrupted by a case of extreme boredom. Next to her is a crossword puzzle that’s long been scribbled out, with the cheery pink refrigerator behind her sporting a postcard with the words, “Love You – Love You – Love You”.
Actress #6 offers a further expression of feminine anguish in a more pronounced fashion. A woman – looking like a more polished version of Elizabeth Taylor’s Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and clad in sleek evening/negligee wear – is sitting upright in bed, fruit tray on lap, screaming, her bejeweled hands outstretched. Perhaps it’s the picture-perfect bedroom in sickly technicolor greens, reds and blues – and combined with the pressure to keep up her lustrous façade – that has brought this gal’s contained rage to a diva-esque breaking point.
In The Pure Wonder #1, we are served a simple yet precise symbol of deranged decadence. A woman, whose lower face is shown close-up and adorned with gold jewelry and bright pink lipstick, is sticking a finger smeared with caviar into her gaping, albeit, indifferent mouth. Although the storylines in this series possess secretive, film noir-like qualities, the message is clear: No matter how perfect things may appear on the outside, materialism can never quell the turbulence of the internal realm. These works are also tinged with feminism, in which the inefficaciousness of female objectification can be noted.
With a prolific career spanning nearly three decades, Aldridge has managed to retain some old school techniques, namely the fact that he is one of the few photographers working today who still shoots predominately on film (as shown in camera rolls also on display in the gallery). His electrifying works have been featured in, among other publications, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, W, The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker, with Aldrige’s many collections also held in prestigious museums and institutions around the world.