A new exhibition, ‘Please Return Polaroid’, offers fascinating glimpses in the illustrious fashion photographer’s working practice…

An ardent film-devotee in a digital world, prolific fashion photographer Miles Aldridge still uses polaroids to pre-check and document his shoots. ‘After a Polaroid was exposed,’ he explains, ‘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 film with the instruction “Please Return Polaroid”.’

His pictures – sometimes forensic and cold, other times over-saturated in glorious technicolour – are always cinematic, strange and glamorous. There’s an unsettling sense of the uncanny about the women who inhabit the world of Miles Aldridge: perfect women in their perfect kitchens with their immaculately lipsticked mouths. They appear to have everything, yet Aldridge’s photographs aren’t the images of high-femme fulfilment they first appear – his subjects are often disaffected and dissatisfied, looking back at the viewer with blank (or murderous) expressions of unutterable boredom.

Aldridge may have shot campaigns for some of the biggest fashion houses in the world, but his work often seems impregnated with messages of anti-consumerism: Buy everything you want and be filled with ennui. 

This exhibition represents almost two decades of assignments. The Polaroids offer a fascinating insight into Aldridge’s creative practices, but, rather than seeming like embryonic versions of finished pieces, they take on a life of their own once recontextualised as independent images in their own right.

Miles Aldridge: Please Return Polaroid runs from Monday 16th – Saturday 21st May at Lyndsey Ingram, 58 Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6LX. The gallery opens Monday- Saturday 10am-6pm. Admission is free.