Miles Aldridge and Francis Hodgson | Photo London Talks 2016

A great example how to interview a photographer!

As part of our training we have live presentations by various practitioners and for various reasons I rarely ask any questions. My decision to reflect on this particular interview is based on two factors. Firstly, Francis Hodgeson managed to keep me engaged throughout, and secondly, this is interview is a great piece of work to analyse critically.

Fig 1. I just want you to love me (Aldridge,2013)

“Miles Aldridge, the distinguished fashion photographer and artist, is interviewed by Francis Hodgson, Professor in the Culture of Photography at the University of Brighton, the photography critic of the Financial Times and the former Head of the photographs department at Sotheby’s. Francis Hodgson is also the Chairman of the Photo London 2016 Curatorial Committee. Miles Aldridge is highly respected for his brilliant fashion work, and in particular for a unique and bold colour sense (Hodgson and Aldridge, 2016) . ”

From the start Francis Hodgson introduces himself and why he is doing the interview. Thus establishing his legitimacy and putting the photographer, Aldridge at rest. He makes a great point around the way photographers from various practices snub each other at Art Fair. After he describes himself and his role as a generalist he merely introduces Aldridge as a specialist making him the key speaker.

Hodgson used Aldridges photograph’s as the basis of the photographs, knowing that Aldridge will be the person that knows the subject the best and feel comfortable and that the selected photographs have been selected as pieces of art. However he had a different strategy. He took the lead. he selected the images he wanted to discuss. This could be interpreted as him being a know it all, but it had a great effect. He could control the discussion, and he made Aldridge seem less of a rock star and celebrity. It directed the audience to view Aldridge’s work. Unfortunately the images displayed was too small.

Hodgson listened to what Aldridge said and he found an important area to discuss, directed his questions to expose that subject. In that way he got Aldridge to explain how he got started, whether he does personal projects, how he manages to get assignments and manage to keep creative control or influence, how he started, his creative process, how he collaborate with the design and support teams, how he interact with other fashion photography pears and his long term relationship with his key customer. In my view it was brilliantly done and led to an informative and educational experience.

Aldridge revealed a number of interesting points. Firstly, that even though he ocasionally does personal projects, he sees all assignments as fulfilling his creative aspirations. “I (Aldridge) really feel is that the commissioned work is the personal work. In as much as that all one’s feelings about the world and oneself, the sort of autobiography of oneself should appear in in the commissioned work. That’s why, in a way, the New York or Vogue Italia asking me to do a picture is they want my sense of the world and the culture at that point,in the picture (Hodgson and Aldridge , 2016) . ” He conceded, he entered the market as the the “grunge” look was in vogue when he and his peers were working on, was in demand at that time. He admits he came into the practice as a “bluffer”. This highlights how in step your work needs to be to initial get assignments and his chosen aesthetic and visual direction aligned with his customers need. It also confirms the process of how Creative directors select their new photographers. “But I quickly realised that if I carried that on I would be completely forgotten about and would just be a kind of a suburb a footnote in the book of grunge photography” which means if you don’t mimic a style you will never achieve greatness.

After that his initial stage his background in illustration frustrated him but enabled him to define his direction over time, and gave him the insight to get him creative influence on every assignment that followed. “I started to draw these pictures and bring them to the photo shoot – almost as a kind of a map of what we were going to do and by having this plan or plots or design about the the image it actually gave me an immense amount of power over everyone else in the studio (Hodgson and Aldridge , 2016) .” see Fig 2. He goes to the design sessions with at least ten ideas on paper, giving his customer and creative staff a starting point and get them to add their ideas. “I was now a photographer who was thinking more like a filmmaker about images and how a set of images could work together rather like a series of images in a movie to tell stories or at least kind of bring you into the idea of story telling. It was this part that intrigued me. It aligned with my investigation into story telling in my practice. I could see how for him this story telling developed from a storyboard until it is realised in the final photograph. Figure 2 also indicate how he uses Polaroid photographs in hi creative process.

Fig 2: Various examples from Miles’s Instagram showing his use of illustration in his planning. From concept, to lab shot using Polaroid to final print (Aldridge, 2019)

Aldridge quickly realised that he needed to build a long term relationship with both his creative and support team. It made all of them comfortable to collaborate through understanding and respect. This respect also extended to his customer and his products which was clearly evident from how he spoke about him. It brings me to the point that the edification and acknowledgement of your peers is extremely important in a competitive market. something all photographers need to adopt at this stage of the photographic game.

When asked how much the current market and his peers influence his work, he denied it saying that he followed his own direction and rarely looked or discussed his the work with others. But he follows with the statement as his peers he was keeping his darkroom secrets to himself. So he does not reveal everything to us.

All of this discussion was done while viewing some of his best work and I must say, I perceived his creativity with awe. He is truly an artist. But if you read further you will see that I have some serious concerns about his work.

Critical reflection on his work ala Susan Sontag.

“Photography is not practised by most people as an art. It is mainly a social rite, a defence of anxiety, and a tool of power. (Sontag ,1977 p 17)”.

Aldridge in his discussion used the words power and control relating to how he works. but is their more to that? His use of bold saturated colours reminiscent of Andy Warhol, and his illustrations may obscure his primary motives dressed up as art. He want to control everything. The creative aspect, the lights, the background, the model he uses and even the way they pose. To what purpose may well be asked?

“Still there is something predatory about the act of taking a pictures. (Sontag,1977 p14). He denies that the customer have control, he admits that it is his vision, then why does some of his photographs use woman as sex objects, being abused, an object of amusement or at the worse end, present them as being raped/abused to advertise a watch for a man? See Fig 3 and 4. the man remains anonymous. All this with a sense of detachment. Is he representing the photographer? He describe the photographers and models of his period as sexy.

Fig 3 Watch Add 1 from New news website (New-news 2019)
Fig 4 watch add 2 Fig 3 Watch Add 1 from New news website (New-news 2019)

“To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves…(Sontag 1977 P14-15)” And he does this with premeditation. Is this the culture he wishes to promote? “Photographs can abet desire in the most direct way.. (Sontag 1977 p 17).” and as this is an open forum I will not continue this sentence. Some may call it art. Susan Sontag clearly doesn’t.

Some of my peers on the course may well agree with her. I still like his creative approach and work as it is intended for the fashion industry, which still uses sex to sell, and promote carnal hedonism and materialistic possessiveness. I can see why Aldridge is successful in his practice.


Hodgson, F. and Aldridge, M. (2016). Miles Aldridge and Francis Hodgson | Photo London Talks 2016. Available at: [Accessed 8 Dec. 2019].

Aldridge, M. (2013). I Only want you to love me. [image] Available at: [Accessed 8 Dec. 2019].

Aldridge, M. (2019). Miles Aldridge (@milesaldridge) • Instagram photos and videos. [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 Dec. 2019].

New-news (2019). Photographer Profile ~ Miles Aldridge. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Dec. 2019].

Into the Digital – Fred Ritchin

After Photography

Who is Fred Ritchin and what is his context?

Fred Ritchin is a prolific author and curator, focusing on digital media and the rapid changes occurring in photography.

The Author Fred Richen (, 2019) .
  • Fred is “currently Dean Emeritus of the International Center of Photography (ICP) School, Previously Ritchin had founded the Documentary Photography and Visual Journalism Program at the ICP School and directed it from 1983–86. He was appointed Dean in 2014 and Dean Emeritus in 2017.
  • Professor of Photography and Imaging at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts from 1991–2014.
  • Ritchin has been picture editor of the New York Times Magazine (1978–82)
  • and executive editor of Camera Arts magazine (1982–83)
  • In 1999 he co-founded and directed PixelPress (, 2019) .”

“Ritchin has written and lectured internationally about the challenges and possibilities of the digital media revolution. He has published three books on the future of imaging: In Our Own Image: The Coming Revolution in Photography (Aperture, 1990); After Photography (W. W. Norton, 2008); and Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and the Citizen (Aperture, 2013). In 2016 he co-authored with Carole Naggar the Magnum Photobook: The Catalogue Raisonné (, 2019) .”

My reflections

Initially, Susan wrote a critical analysis, “On photography”. Richen has taken it upon himself to discuss what happened “After Photography…”

“We have entered the digital age. And the digital age entered us.” (Ritchin, 2009 p9 )

Coming from the film era where the whole process was photographic. The film negative or slide positive was created using light to draw the image which in turn was replicated using light to draw an image on a paper medium or projection screen. In the digital era, things changed. “Photography in the digital environment involves the reconfiguration of the image into a mosaic of millions of changeable pixels, not a continuous tone imprint of visible reality. Rather than a quote from appearances, it serves as an initial recording, a preliminary script, which may precede a quick and easy reshuffling. The digital photographer-and all who come after her-potentially plays a postmodern visual disc jockey (Ritchin, 2009 p18) .”.

The traditional photographer like myself, have always felt a bit at odds with the impact of the digital age, the altered media, and the ubiquitous nature of digital photography within a social media and internet environment. I am still trying to get my head around it to find my place in this altered reality. In essence, the photographic process ends when the light is captured on the sensor and digitised into bits. Not only can the image be stored, but the digital data can be copied and distributed without loss and printed or displayed through digital means, simulating the photographic, rather than using the photographic process. “Digital photography has been configured as a seamless, more efficient repetition of the past, easier to sell to the apprehensive consumer even as it is celebrated as part of the ‘digital revolution’ (Ritchin, 2009 p15)

Ritchin elaborates: “Digital involves coded signifiers, data that can be easily played with, abstracted from their source; analogue emanates from wind and wood and trees, the world of the palpable. Digital is based on an architecture of infinitely repeatable abstractions in which the original and its copy are the same; analogue ages and rots, diminishing over generations, changing its sound, its look, its smell. In the analogue world, the photograph of the photograph is always one generation removed, fuzzier, not the same; the digital copy of the digital photograph is indistinguishable so that “original” loses its meaning (Ritchin, 2009 p 17).” in Digital photography the photons are measured and converted from analogue to digital. This digital information is stored in RAW file unique to that device that cannot be viewed and needs to be interpreted using the software either in the camera or on a computer. In the workflow, the original information can be manipulated to emulate the development process and techniques or even go beyond and change the original in significant and truth altering ways. What you see is no longer what you get.

Ritchin takes the issues directly and moves Susan’s metaphor of Plato’s cave to a square universe which projects what the industry defines as “virtual’ and sometimes “augmented reality”. The virtual reality draws us into an unlimited world where social interaction allows you to present yourself as someone completely different, and create a world of your own. Alternatively, augmented reality seeks to show us our world with added “truths” not limited by the constraints as imposed by nature itself. It, in fact, dictates the new truth. As Ritchin asserts: ” It is a world where the human often feels at a disadvantage, where the machine is considered smart and the human sometimes stupid “ but ” The computer also promises a secular uberenvironment in which “reality is merely a convenient measure of complexity,” as Pixar’s Alvy Ray Smith once put it, to be simulated by computer graphics and ultimately transcended (Ritchin, 2009 p16).

“Painting was posited to have preceded, inspired, and then been threatened by photography in the nineteenth century-the handmade versus the mechanical. In the twenty-first century photography of the digital kind-wired, instantaneous, automatic, malleable, a component of a larger multimedia-may eventually turns out to have a more distant relationship with the film-and-chemicals variety that came before it (Ritchin, 2009 p19)”. This statement reminded me of the pictorial phase in photography. Digital manipulation relates closer to painting than that of the photographic process.

A benefit for digital artists and fine art photographers is usurping of the detectable darkroom trickery that was pursued by earlier practitioners which have been made fully pliable with software paint brushes vs airbrushing with chemicals, digital non-destructive layering vs physical layering negatives or physically cutting them, and digital colourisation techniques vs using filters, and a myriad of other options vs. using sometimes poisonous chemical processes. All analogue processes…

I must admit that the digital photography world has aided my photography practice in many ways. I no longer have to wait for the film to be developed to see my results. My darkroom costs and space have reduced and I can perform techniques that would have taken me years to perfect. I can self publish digitally at very low costs and reach a worldwide audience if I so desire.

And finally, returning to Sontag and her critical analysis in “on Photography” regarding the truth and reality perception that the photograph was seen in a sense a trace of reality and it could be used to testify as truth has been seriously altered forever. Fred briefly comments on it: “Where then is the “real” now? Increasingly we are looking at photographs of the map that refers to no territory: the pictures of pictures, the photo opportunities in which politicians and celebrities have their managers stage a scene as if it had actually happened, the photo illustrations that magazines adroitly set up to prove a point, the advertisements for products too glossy to exist, the media filters that reduce life to a shorthand of shock and voyeurism (Ritchin, 2009 p23). This poses a major problem to the practice of journalism, reportage and the documentary. It has been severely devalued the photograph. But, as far as these practices are concerned, the integrity of the photographic evidence needs to be managed and controlled by the photographer which is seriously challenged by editorial staff. This subject is covered in depth in Richen’s monograph “Bending the frame” which is waiting for me on my shelf.

Reference (2019). fredritchin | International Center of Photography. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Nov. 2019].

Ritchin, F. (2009). After photography. New York: Norton, pp.9-24.