David Bailey Profile

During his National Service as an RAF airman in Singapore, he bought his first camera, sparking a life-long fascination with the medium and the stories it can tell.

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Born in London's East End in 1938, the young David Bailey was a carpet salesman, a shoe salesman, a window dresser, a copy boy, a runner and a debt collector before he ever took a picture as a professional photographer. But, during his National Service as an RAF airman in Singapore, he bought his first camera, sparking a life-long fascination with the medium and the stories it can tell.

In 1959, he was back in London, where he landed a job as assistant to the fashion photographer, John French. Before long, he was taking pictures for Vogue, pioneering a new style of fashion and portrait photography. Bailey's work was groundbreaking - deceptively simple, high contrast, black and white pictures that owed as much to reportage as anything else.

Bailey's style suited the age. The stars of swinging London had no time for deference or artifice. Many of his subjects in the music and fashion scenes shared his brash, working class approach. So, Bailey got the work and became as big a name as the personalities he was photographing. They included The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Jean Shrimpton, Penelope Tree, Twiggy, Marianne Faithfull and even notorious gangsters the Kray twins.

Bailey's initial muse was Jean Shrimpton. The pair met on the set of a cornflakes advertisement and were soon working and living together. He fought hard to persuade Vogue to use her in a long feature, shot by himself. The editors weren't keen at first but, when they saw the results, Jean was in the magazine and 'The Shrimp' - Britain's first supermodel - was born.

Bailey went on to date - or even marry - several of the world's most beautiful women, including Catherine Deneuve, Penelope Tree, and Marie Helvin.

In 1966, director Michelangelo Antonioni made Blow-Up, a stylish thriller starring David Hemmings as a trendy London photographer. Of course, the character had to be based on Bailey. There was no one else like him.