Fluorescent fashion infusion

2009-12-31 00:00

“TO me, this project was partly about [Federico] Fellini,” says British photographer Miles Aldridge, chosen by the coffee company, Lavazza, to photograph its 2010 calendar.

The London-born photographer cites the great Italian filmmaker as just one of his “thousand or so influences”, adding that he is also fascinated by real life. “Whether parking my car in a Soho garage painted neon red or spotting a woman crossing the street in a fluoro-green coat, it is just as inspiring as the bright orange in a Francis Bacon, or the candy-coloured palette of The Wizard of Oz.”

His love of acid colours and hermetically sealed surfaces — skin, plastic, fabric — and his insistence on a perfect glossy finish give his images a futuristic sheen. Yet, his subjects — pallid, lipsticked housewives daydreaming while rolling out dayglo pastry, or girlfriends dressed in forties apparel visiting Paris for the first time — are wonderfully retro.

The theme for this year’s calendar — the 18th that Lavazza has produced — is Italian songs, which were not only famous all over the world, but able to transmit that special character particular to Italians.

The selection includes: ‘O Sole Mio, the ultimate soundtrack for Italian optimism and joie de vivre; Baciami piccina, which tells of a sensual, mysterious affair; Guarda che luna, which conveys the emotion and enchantment of a magical night in Italy; Con te partirò, which represents our ability to look beyond boundaries, the idea of travelling and reaching new horizons; Nessun dorma, which underlines Italy’s penchant for celebrating and creative energy; and Va’ Pensiero, an anthem to the Italian ability to let the imagination soar.

Commenting on the theme, Aldridge said: “These Italian arias and songs felt like little stories — stories about overcoming adversity, or bitter-sweet stories about love. They reminded me of the woman’s struggle in La Strada, and the many narrative strands in La Dolce Vita.”

In the photographs, the songs are brought to life by models Bianca Balti, Georgia Frost, Lydia Hearst, Daisy Lowe, Alexandra Tomlinson and Alek Alexeyeva.

Aldridge, who shot the calendar in Rome’s film studios, Cinecittà, wanted the female protagonists in his images to be heroines, full of character. “I didn’t just want six ravishing beauties. I wanted six women that were larger than life in their different ways,” he added.

And, it’s clear he’s succeeded. The impact of his shots is immediate.

WHO IS MILES ALDRIDGE?

MILES Aldridge is a fashion photographer and illustrator, whose images are narrative ­scenarios, which he sketches out beforehand, often featuring troubled or bored women, secretly dissatisfied with their lives, but always ghostly pale and hauntingly beautiful.

His sketches were published by Karl Lagerfeld and Gerhard Steidl in a 2009 book titled ­Pictures for Photographs.

He is married to the model Kristen McMenamy and his ­father is the illustrator and graphic designer, Alan Aldridge, whose work includes illustrated lyric books for the Beatles, ­album covers for the Rolling Stones, the Who and Elton John, and illlustrations for the children’s book, The Butterfly Ball.

Unlike many photographers he hasn’t succumbed to digital imaging, preferring to shoot on film, achieving most of his extraordinary colour and lighting effects in the studio.

Aldridge is a regular contributor to Italian Vogue, and has contributed to The New York Times and The New Yorker.

His work is in the collections of several museums, including the International Center of ­Photography in New York and the National Portrait Gallery in London. This year he had three solo shows, at London’s Hamiltons Gallery, the Steven Kasher Gallery in New York and the ­Reflex Gallery in Amsterdam.

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