Like stills from a film, this selection of unique Polaroid prints by Miles Aldridge are compelling, alluring and brimming with ambiguity. His works possess their own mysterious charisma. Some seem forensic and cold, others glamorous and erotic.
When Aldridge started in the early 1990s, using Polaroid was a standard part of a fashion photographer’s working method. Using a Rolleiflex enabled Aldridge to switch between Polaroid and regular film on the same camera. On set, these instant snapshots develop within minutes, and allow Aldridge to check and manipulate the scene quickly, adjusting set and model before changing to standard film to shoot the final image. As digital photography became increasingly prevalent, this creative process became more specialised, however Aldridge has remained committed to shooting in film, enjoying the 1940s/50s painterly Hollywood aesthetic that celluloid allows. Today, he continues to use Polaroids to pre-check and document his shoots.
The Polaroids record the progression towards a finished photograph, acting as studies in much the same way that painters and sculptors make preparatory drawings. Aldridge’s subtle adjustments can be seen most clearly in the diptychs and triptych in the exhibition. As with preliminary sketches, some survive and are archived, while others are discarded and become studio detritus.
The images displayed in this exhibition have been selected by the artist from an archive compiled from a prolific career of film and magazine assignments spanning almost two decades. Each of the selected works is an anomaly — a unique object in its own right that has taken on a special quality and new life beyond its preparatory intention. The chosen Polaroids have elements of intrigue and interest – a model caught between poses, or evidence of the artist’s handling; a melted surface, creases, tears and annotations. Sometimes the figure is blurred, or completely absent. These ambiguities create an abstract, cinematic narrative of their own. Placing one next to another can have the effect of creating the strange logic of a dream, or a David Lynch-like narrative.
The act of photographing the same scene repetitively has a post-modern undertone. This process creates an artificiality that Aldridge enjoys — asking the model to laugh convincingly again and again, or step in and out of a car repeatedly. The Polaroids capture unintended and sometimes inexplicable moments that highlight instances of strangeness in an everyday world. For Aldridge, the camera is veracious.
Aldridge comments, After a Polaroid was exposed it was kept warm under the armpit of one of my assistants for 120 seconds (30 seconds for black and white) before being peeled apart. The Polaroid would then be referred to for lighting, colour and composition. At the end of the shoot, a set of Polaroids with notes to my lab would be included with the shot lm with the instruction “Please Return Polaroid”.