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Colours by Miles Aldridge

Like most photographers I began my career with a curiosity about all aspects of the craft. Some days I shot on fast grainy film and other days on slow fine-grained film. My camera of choice changed daily too. Mamiya, Hasselblad, Nikon and, if I felt very serious, a Sinar. I was, to summarise, not bad at taking pictures but totally directionless. With this sketchy talent I somehow found myself in Japan shooting an advertising project for a client who I now cannot remember. One afternoon in a daze of jet lag I visited an exhibition of large black and white prints by Peter Lindberg, presented in the basement gallery of a Tokyo department store. In this dark space Lindberg’s brooding women appeared out of the shadows in beautiful smudges of charcoal-like grain. I left the exhibition stunned by what I had seen and I realised there was nothing I could add to black and white photography. I decided to devote myself to colour.

As a boy I loved the Technicolor films of Powell and Pressburger, Douglas Sirk, and Hitchcock, where props and studio lighting created shocks of colour that made the everyday seem otherworldly: a green Cadillac; trees with red and orange autumn leaves; the bluest azure sky; a bed of pink satin sheets; gloss-red lips exhaling cigarette smoke. The primal use of colour in these cinema images had stayed with me from childhood, and revisiting these films I began to make my own experiments in colour. By this time I was working for the editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, Franca Sozzani, whose enthusiasm and encouragement for new ideas in photography was legendary. I told Franca I wanted to shoot a series of images about new lipstick colours for Vogue but without a model. I wanted the lipstick to be seen simply left on the butt of a cigarette stuck into the runny yolk of a fried egg. Franca greenlighted the idea and 2 months later my pop-art egg and cigarette was spread over a double-page in her magazine. Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of American Vogue, got in touch about the image and asked if I could send her a signed print. I knew I was onto something.

Now colour is always the starting point. For example, when I accidentally dropped a bottle of ketchup onto my kitchen floor, I was drawn to the violent splashes of red and decided to recreate the scene in a photographic studio—using paint for a more vividly coloured sauce. On another occasion while in Paris, a bright green double-decker tourist bus caught my eye as it passed the Place de la Concorde. I instantly fell in love with this shock of colour, and planned a series about two German tourists visiting Paris just so I could include the bus in my pictures. I like to think of my pictures as real life but seen as if in a Hollywood movie where everything is more intense, more operatic, and strangely—like in a dream—more real.

By Miles Aldridge

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