David Bailey, CBE (born 2 January 1938) is an English fashion and portrait photographer.
In 1959, Bailey became a photographic assistant at the John French studio, and in May 1960, he was a photographer for John Cole’s Studio Five, before being contracted as a fashion photographer for British Vogue magazine later that year. He also undertook a large amount of freelance work.
Along with Terence Donovan and Brian Duffy, Bailey captured and helped create the ‘Swinging London’ of the 1960s: a culture of fashion and celebrity chic. The three photographers socialised with actors, musicians and royalty, and found themselves elevated to celebrity status. Together, they were the first real celebrity photographers, named by Norman Parkinson “the Black Trinity”.
The film Blowup (1966), directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, depicts the life of a London fashion photographer (played by David Hemmings) whose character was inspired by Bailey. The “Swinging London” scene was aptly reflected in his Box of Pin-Ups (1964): a box of poster-prints of 1960s celebrities including Terence Stamp, The Beatles, Mick Jagger, Jean Shrimpton, PJ Proby, Cecil Beaton, Rudolf Nureyev, Andy Warhol and notorious East End gangsters, the Kray twins. The Box was an unusual and unique commercial release. It reflected the changing status of the photographer that one could sell a collection of prints in this way. Strong objection to the presence of the Krays by fellow photographer, Lord Snowdon, was the major reason no American edition of the “Box” was released, and that a second British edition was not issued. The record sale for a copy of ‘Box of Pin-Ups’ is reported as “north of £20,000”.
Bailey’s ascent at Vogue was meteoric. Within months he was shooting covers and, at the height of his productivity, he shot 800 pages of Vogue editorial in one year. Penelope Tree, a former girlfriend, described him as “the king lion on the Savannah: incredibly attractive, with a dangerous vibe. He was the electricity, the brightest, most powerful, most talented, most energetic force at the magazine”.
American Vogue’s creative director Grace Coddington, then a model herself, said “It was the Sixties, it was a raving time, and Bailey was unbelievably good-looking. He was everything that you wanted him to be – like the Beatles but accessible – and when he went on the market everyone went in. We were all killing ourselves to be his model, although he hooked up with Jean Shrimpton pretty quickly”.
Since 1966, Bailey has also directed several television commercials and documentaries. From 1968 to 1971 he directed and produced TV documentaries titled Beaton, Warhol and Visconti. As well as fashion photography, Bailey photographed album sleeve art for musicians including The Rolling Stones and Marianne Faithfull. One of Bailey’s most famous works depicts the Rolling Stones including Brian Jones, who drowned in 1969 while under the influence of drink and drugs. He is seen standing slightly apart from the rest of the group.
Bailey was hired in 1970 by Island Records’ Chris Blackwell to shoot publicity photos of Cat Stevens for his upcoming album Tea for the Tillerman. Stevens (now known as Yusuf Islam) maintains that he disliked having his photo on the cover of his albums, as had previously been the case, although he allowed Bailey’s photographs to be placed on the inner sleeve of the album.
In 1972, rock musician Alice Cooper was photographed by Bailey for Vogue magazine, almost naked apart from a snake. Cooper used Bailey the following year to shoot for the group’s chart topping ‘Billion Dollar Babies’ album. The shoot included a baby wearing shocking eye makeup and, supposedly, one billion dollars in cash requiring the shoot to be under armed guard. In 1976, Bailey published Ritz Newspaper together with David Litchfield. In 1985, Bailey was photographing stars at the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium. As he recalled later: “The atmosphere on the day was great. At one point I got a tap on my shoulder and spun round. Suddenly there was a big tongue down my throat! It was Freddie Mercury.”
In 1992, Bailey directed the BBC drama Who Dealt? starring Juliet Stevenson, story by Ring Lardner. In 1995 he directed and wrote the South Bank Film The Lady is a Tramp featuring his wife Catherine Bailey. In 1998 he directed a documentary with Ginger Television Production, Models Close Up, commissioned by Channel 4 Television.
In 2012, the BBC made a film of the story of his 1962 New York photoshoot with Jean Shrimpton, entitled We’ll Take Manhattan, starring Aneurin Barnard as Bailey. In October 2013, Bailey took part in Art Wars at the Saatchi Gallery curated by Ben Moore. The artist was issued with a stormtrooper helmet, which he transformed into a work of art. Proceeds went to the Missing Tom Fund set up by Ben Moore to find his brother Tom who has been missing for over ten years. The work was also shown on the Regents Park platform as part of Art Below Regents Park.