David Royston Bailey CBE (born 2 January 1938) is an English fashion and portrait photographer. David Bailey was born at Whipps Cross University Hospital in Leytonstone, to Herbert Bailey, a tailor's cutter, and his wife, Gladys a machinist. From the age of three he lived in East Ham.
Bailey developed a love of natural history, and this led him into photography. Suffering from undiagnosed dyslexia, he experienced problems at school. He attended a private school, Clark's College in Ilford, where he says they taught him less than the more basic council school. As well as dyslexia he also has the motor skill disorder dyspraxia (developmental coordination disorder). In one school year, he claims he only attended 33 times. He left school on his fifteenth birthday, to become a copy boy at the Fleet Street offices of the Yorkshire Post. He raced through a series of dead-end jobs, before his call up for National Service in 1956, serving with the Royal Air Force in Singapore in 1957. The appropriation of his trumpet forced him to consider other creative outlets, and he bought a Rolleiflex camera.
He was demobbed in August 1958, and determined to pursue a career in photography, he bought a Canon rangefinder camera. Unable to obtain a place at the London College of Printing because of his school record, he became a second assistant to David Ollins, in Charlotte Mews. He earned £3 10s (£3.50) a week, and acted as studio dogsbody. He was delighted to be called to an interview with photographer John French. 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 socialized 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 who is 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 and 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".
At Vogue Bailey was shooting covers within months, 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"
. Of model Jean Shrimpton, Bailey said: "She was magic and the camera loved her too. In a way she was the cheapest model in the world – you only needed to shoot half a roll of film and then you had it. She had the knack of having her hand in the right place, she knew where the light was, she was just a natural."
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, who is 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 singer 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 October 2020 Bailey's Memoir "Look Again"
in co-operation with author James Fox was published by Macmillan Books a review on his life and work.
David Bailey is an English fashion photographer best known for his images of celebrities, models, and musicians. Though he is also known for his photography book NWI
(1982), which documented the process of gentrification in the London neighborhoods of Primrose Hill and Camden. Born on January 2, 1938 in London, United Kingdom, Bailey dropped out of high school to serve in the Royal Air Force where he developed an interest in the photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson
. Returning to England, Bailey began working as the fashion photographer John French’s assistant. Over the course of the 1960s and 70s, the artist gained attention from the press after a string of high-profile marriages to Jean Shrimpton, Catherine Deneuve, and Marie Helvin. In 1965, he published his first photography book Box of Pin-Ups
, a collection of black-and-white images portraying Mick Jagger, The Beatles, Twiggy, and Andy Warhol, along with several other celebrity figures. Bailey has gone on to receive the title of Commander of the Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth II, and in 2016 a Lifetime Achievement award from the International Center of Photography
in New York. The artist’s photographs are held in the collections of the National Portrait Gallery
and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Bailey currently lives and works in London, United Kingdom.