Miles Aldridge's Dangerous Pleasures
Cara Delevingne, Barbara Palvin, Lily Cole. These are the high-fashion muses of British photographer Miles Aldridge, who also happens to be the brother of model Saffron Aldridge, half-brother of Lily Aldridge, and former husband of Kristen McMenamy, the striking demigod of ’90s androgyny. An equally glamorous coterie is featured in Aldridge’s current exhibition at Zürich’s Christophe Guye Galerie, The Age of Pleasure, though here the model-beauty is punctuated by a decidedly diabolical twist.
If the photographs look familiar, it’s because you’ve probably seen Aldridge’s work in the pages of Vogue, The New York Times Magazine, and The New Yorker, among others. But Aldridge is also part of a long line of fashion photographers—including Irving Penn, Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, and Juergen Teller—who have made inroads into the fine arts. So in addition to today's top glossies, Aldridge’s credits also include London’s National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Back in Zürich, The Age of Pleasure transforms seemingly quotidian pleasures—such as lusting after footwear and slurping caviar—into titillating, even dangerous transgressions. Aldridge’s penchant for lurid colors and flair for the cinematic further heighten the images’ sensuality while deepening their somewhat startling gravitas.In Home Works #3 (2008), a red-lipped blonde leans precariously close to a gas stove in order to light her Virginia Slim, prompting us to ask whether her pleasure is in the high of the nicotine or the threat of fire. But despite her close approximation to a bored 1950s housewife, something in her eyes suggests she's no ordinary resident of some Stepford-like universe.
Instead of self-loathing automatons, Aldridge's subjects are femme fatales—invincible stars of their own Hitchcockian plotlines who conflate living with risk-taking. They exist on the edge and if they’re going down, you’re going down with them. This is made apparent in the twin themes of death and sainthood that weave throughout the works and culminate in Like a Painting #1 (2013), which depicts the profile of an Eve-like figure set amid a baroque garden of delights. With her rich art-historical connotations, the woman in Like a Painting #1 alludes to nothing less than the fall of man.
The Age of Pleasure is on display through June 11 at the Christophe Guye Galerie in Zürich. The exhibition marks the publication of Miles Aldridge: I Only Want You to Love Me (Rizzoli, 2014).