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David Bailey                               

The Swinging Sixties saw the rise of several photographers who became celebrities in their own right. They were young (in their 20s), classless (several hailed from the East end of London – David Bailey, Terence Donovan and Brian Duffy) and brought innovative techniques to the world of fashion photography, including grainy prints taken on high-contrast film.
Bailey, the son of a tailor, was born on 2nd January 1938 and had left school at the age of 15. As a child he’d first been attracted to photography while taking photographs of garden birds with his father’s box camera.

Jean Shrimpton In August 1958, at the age of 18, he was called up for National Service in the Royal Air Force and served in Singapore and Malaya. During his stint in Singapore he was able to buy a Rollop camera quite cheaply and his interest in photography was revived.

He studied the photographs in publications such as Life magazine and was impressed by the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson. In the summer of 1958 he’d decided on a career in photography, but was turned down when he applied for the photography course at the London College of Printing. He wrote to numerous photographers offering his services as an assistant and was able to secure work as a jack-of-all trades for advertising photographer David Olins.
David Bailey

By June 1959 he had become second assistant to fashion photographer John French and in May 1960 set up on his own. Almost immediately he secured a contract from John Parsons, art director of Vogue and had his first Vogue covers published in 1961.
His style soon earned him a reputation and he began to work for the American, French and Italian editions of Vogue. Bailey’s favourite model at this time was Jean Shrimpton and the two lived and worked together between the years 1961 and 1964. Strangely enough, they drifted apart shortly after Bailey had obtained a divorce from his first wife at the end of 1963. During their three years together, the pair had become the darlings of the fashion world. After his romance with ‘The Shrimp’ was over, Bailey seemed to lose interest in fashion photography and began to display an enthusiasm for portraiture.

Mick Jagger and Michael Caine by David Bailey As the most famous photographer in 'Swinging London' he was in demand to take pictures of other leading figures, including The Beatles, Mary Quant and The Rolling Stones. In 1965 Weidenfeld and Nicholson published his best-selling portfolio ‘David Bailey’s Box of Pin-Ups.’ This comprised 37 large photographs, each printed on a single sheet and packaged in a box.All the pictures were shot against plain white backgrounds, key-lit for contrast and the figures included Lord Snowdon, the Kray twins, Lennon and McCartney, The Rolling Stones, P.J. Proby, Gordon Waller, Brian Epstein, Michael Caine, Andrew Loog Oldham, Rudolph Nureyev, Jean Shrimpton, Vidal Sassoon, Cecil Beaton, Terence Donovan, Michael Cooper, Susan Murray and David Hockney. A brief text was provided by Francis Wyndham, who observed: “Glamour dates fast, and it is its ephemeral nature which both attracts Bailey and challenges him. He has tried to capture it on the wing, and his pin-ups have a heroic look: isolated, vulnerable, lost.”

When the film ‘Blow Up’ was released, it was rumoured that the photographer-hero had been based on Bailey. This was because Bailey’s friend Francis Wyndham had provided director Michaelangelo Antonioni with a document of background research for the film, based on interviews he’d conducted with Bailey, Donovan and Duffy. In 1965 Bailey married French actress Catherine Deneuve and Mick Jagger acted as his best man. Unfortunately, the couple were apart so often, due to the pressures of their respective careers, that they parted and, in 1967, Bailey took up with Penelope Tree, daughter of an American millionaire banker, who became his favourite model until 1973.
Penelope Tree

David Bailey and Marie Helvin His other best-selling book of the Sixties was ‘Goodbye Baby and Amen: A Saraband for the Sixties’ (Conde Nash/Collins). This was once again a blend of pop stars, models, actors and directors that included portraits of John Lennon, Raquel Welch, Julie Christie, Catherine Deneuve, Diana Vreeland and Daniel Cohn Bendit. A text was provided by Peter Evans who, commenting on the Sixties theme of the book, wrote: “To the older generation critics, it was a shallow and irrelevant epoch in British history. To the cast, it was a long, long happening in a no-man’s land, both elusive and energetic and inevitably evaporative in the end.” During the Seventies Bailey had several exhibitions, was made a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, set up the magazine Ritz with David Litchfield and married model Marie Helvin.

By the Eighties he was appearing regularly in television commercials advertising Olympus cameras and also making documentary films. Other published books of his photographic work include ‘Beady Minces’, ‘Warhol by Bailey’, ‘Another Image: Papua New Guinea’, ‘Mixed Moments’, ‘Trouble and Strife’, ‘David Bailey’s Book of Photography’, ‘NMI’ and ‘Black and White Memories.’


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