Allow me to put on my curmudgeon hat for a moment, but do you ever feel like photographers shooting for big publications will sometimes go for wild off-the-wall creative concepts that seem to just fall flat? That's how I feel about these portraits of "Game of Thrones" actors for Time magazine from British Photographer Miles Aldridge.
Now, these images are typical of Aldridge's work, so it's pretty safe to bet that these are exactly the kind of photos Time was going for when they hired him. Aldridge is known for exactly these kind of images, oversaturated colors, hard lighting, surreal settings and motifs, all of which are on display in these photos. My biggest question when I see images like these is why? I assume the pitch conversation for this issue went something like this:
"Hey, so what should we do for the 'Game of Thrones' edition of the mag this summer?"
"I dunno, have them wear their costumes and put them in the snow or something?"
"Nah, that's been done to death. People want to see something different."
"Different... What do you mean?"
"I mean different! Like Miles Aldridge!"
"Miles Aldridge! He's so hot right now!"
"You mean this guy who does all these bright colored portraits of dead-eyed plastic looking women staring away from the camera? That Miles Aldridge?"
"Exactly! It'll be great, glad you agree. Let me call his publicist."
Or something like that.
But seriously, why? I am one of those people that thinks that photos are meant to, on some level, tell a story to the viewer. Now, that idea leaves plenty of room for artistic interpretation, but I think it's fairly easy to "artist" your way out of storytelling without realizing it. Look over the images from this article and tell me if they are anything more than actors dropped into a Miles Aldridge photo. Sure, they're funky and cool in a psychedelic sort of way, but is there any meaning behind them, any depth?
Photos like these just don't connect with me as a viewer. They seem more like an amalgamation of style and technique than the result of intentional process and vision. Bold, bright, oversaturated colors? Check. Funky silk backgrounds? Check. Random still-life articles to jazz up the scene? Check. Hard lighting? Check. Drop in any actor or model you want because the person in the photo really doesn't have any impact on the image? Check and check.
Time magazine is known for really killer photography, but I feel like they missed on this one. When I saw these photos I immediately thought of the portraits Time had shot of the cast of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" back in 2015, because I loved those images so much. They're great portraits, well executed and compelling. And while they would still be great portraits if you swapped in a random model for the famous actors, I do feel like Marco Grob was able to make each image individual to the subject he was shooting (the Harrison Ford and J.J. Abrams portraits are particularly stunning).
So that's my two cents, but what do you think? There's every possibility that I am missing out on the sheer artistic brilliance of these images and I need someone to enlighten me. If that's the case, let me know in the comments below.