A muted beige beauty provides a gentle introduction into the world of Miles Aldridge, but this unusual restraint is short lived as the room explodes into a riot of rainbow colour. The exhibition is not particularly large, but the work within packs a powerful punch. Colour takes a starring role and the glossy prints radiate every imaginable shade from equally vibrant walls.

Since entering the world of fashion and editorial photography in the 1990s, London-born Aldridge has had a unique and easily-identifiable style. The intricately-constructed worlds inside his photographs are exaggerated and plasticised to surreal perfection. Aldridge takes fashion where we don't expect it. Mundane situations are made fantastical by his trademark palette and an army of the most beautiful of women.

And this exhibition is all about women. When children and men feature (which isn't very often) they are used as props in the heroine's storyline. Aldridge's photographs are a celebration of the flawless female form, but his idea of beauty is refreshingly varied. The models' looks are diverse, with a multitude of styles and skin tones ranging from a deathly pallor to honey-roasted tans. The models are all conventionally beautiful, but if you look hard enough one non-stereotypical star can also be found. Unfortunately this admirable inclusion is limited to a single print, which feels a little underwhelming amongst its larger, bolder neighbours. The story in this scene is also not particularly exciting, making this feel more like an inclusion to appease the critics rather than a genuine promotion of plus-sized diversity. The title of this print is also a good example of Aldridge's wit and humour, but Fast Cars, Fast Food #4 (2011) could be read as a little, insulting too.

There is a lot of humour in this exhibition, but there are darker emotions at play too. A heavily made-up and bejewelled woman wears her shower cap like a plastic halo in Shower #5 (2009). The scene is comedic in its absurdity and unsettling simultaneously. Beneath the facade of the idealised woman in an idealised world lurks a layer of neurosis and angst. The complex narratives in Aldridge's photographs elevates them far beyond the superficial work of most other fashion photographers working today.

Before turning his hand to photography, Aldridge made pop videos for a living, and this influence is still obvious. His work is incredibly cinematic, alluding to stories and characters with far more depth than can be contained in a single frame. Each one appears like a still from a much longer film that the viewer has invaded mid-action. Quotes from Aldridge can be found throughout the exhibition giving fascinating insights into his creative process. It's explained that his photoshoots unfold more like a play, and this theatrical rather than static approach gives the photographs their believability. These quotes also reveal a lot about Aldridge's influences. We learn that the vulnerabilities and anguish expressed by his models are primarily inspired by his mother, whom he perceived to be trapped in a less than satisfying domestic life. Many of these women are placed in situations that portray them as a victim, but there is also a powerful, simmering rage in their eyes. These wounded women are not quite ready to give up just yet.

As well as all the photographic prints, the exhibition includes artefacts such as sketchbooks, notes and polaroid test shots that reveal how this usually candid photographer creates his masterpieces. Despite being only tests, the polaroids are beautiful in their own right, and the sketches show how strong and clear his visions remain from inception to end. It's also interesting to learn that Aldridge has resisted digital technologies and still chooses to work with film: Aldridge is a master craftsman, creating his trademark colourful aesthetic by good old-fashioned chemical manipulation.

Display cases also house magazines where the photographs were originally published as multi-paged spreads. The exhibition as a whole is well designed and effectively curated. Grouped by series, visual links are used to create connections between otherwise disjointed works, like when smoke from a séance in The Dead #11 (2012) drifts into the exhaled vapours of Cabaret #4 (2006). At the back of the space lurks a separate darkened room. Within we find images from the Immaculée series, large prints of virginal women playing on historical religious iconography. Low lighting emulates the atmosphere of a church, and it's so effective that voices are lowered to respectful whispers. This work is potentially the most controversial of Aldridge's portfolio. The models' eyes roll back in apparent ecstasy and it's difficult not to stray towards sexual connotations. But these images are less about conventional religion. Instead, according to Aldridge, it is money, beauty and fame that are now worthy of worship.

Miles Aldridge: I Only Want You to Love Me, at Somerset HouseStacey Harbour's review of Miles Aldridge: I Only Want You to Love Me at Somerset House.4