By Dao Tran | Impressionist

My work is about this questioning of who we are now that we have everything we want.

Miles Aldridge

Vice recently asserted that fashion is not about sex but rather about class, status and the codification of identity markers. Socioeconomic stratification became even more marked after the financial crisis; the rich are getting richer and their habits are getting more exclusive.

And what is more exclusive than fine art? After the whole twentieth century reappropriation of “art for the people/by the people”, everybody is an artist. But not everything is fine art; there is still an aura of sanctification around the label.

The New York Times has recently heralded fashion photography as “the art world’s rising star,” as evidenced by the increasing number and popularity of glossy shows like Irving Penn at the Smithsonian, Horst P. Horst at the Victoria and Albert or Herb Ritts at the Getty in LA, to name a few. The glamour draws the large crowds and entices new collectors with entry-level prices.

Fashion photography has historically been a fertile breeding ground for fine art photographers (Helmut Newton, Diane Arbus, David LaChapelle, etc.). The big production fashion shoots make it possible to execute a vision on a professional scale, while providing the requisite skills for working with a full team of hair & makeup, wardrobe, stylist, set design, lighting, and post-production. In the age of Instagram and Flickr, everybody is a photographer, so a fluency in professional production is the minimum.

If we overlook the recent embarassment that was the Gap and Visionnaire collaboration at Frieze London, art can add value and status to fashion. For example, Prada’s much-lauded SS14 collection was a commission of six mural artists from around the world, whose works were then integrated into the design of the collection, making each article of clothing a work of art. The ad campaign was shot by Steven Meisel showing overprivileged youth at a tennis match, movie theater or concert, where – according to Prada – “the spectators become the spectacle.”prada miles.001 prada miles.002

The models are pretty and so are the clothes, but this is not art, this is advertising. It gets interesting when you look at Miles Aldridge’s recent work, which features his signature women with blank stares dressed in the Prada SS14 collection visiting an exhibition of his magnus opus “I Only Wanted You to Love Me.” He creates a multilayered echo chamber of seemingly perfect creatures lost in the luxury of their lives, their airbrushed expressions belying their ennui and disorientation. Aldridge’s series makes us question who we are now that we have everything we want.

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