Culture for Dummies: David Bailey’s Images

David Bailey (1938) is one of Britain’s most iconic photographers. He began his career as assistant photographer at the John French studios, after a love of natural history drew him to photography. In 1960 he started his contract with British Vogue. Together with photographers such as Terence Donovan and Brian Duffy, David Bailey observed and created the sexually liberated, adventurous and controversial image of 1960s London. As well as a successful career in fashion photography he has produced and directed BBC dramas and documentaries and in 2001 was awarded a CBE. 

Bailey helped to create the first cult of ‘celebrity’ photography, capturing seductive images of sultry sixties icons. In his Box of Pin-Ups (1964) he produced a box of poster prints which featured celebrities and socialites including The Beatles, Mick Jagger, Jean Shrimpton, Cecil Beaton, Rudolf Nureyev, Andy Warhol and the East End gangsters the Kray Twins.

Of supermodel Jean Shrimpton, with whom Bailey had a tempestuous relationship he 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”. In a recent interview at Vogue Festival in 2012 Bailey proclaimed “That myth of making models cry…I mean, they were usually lovers”. David Bailey epitomised a generation of ambitious, talented artists,immersed in the exciting and exploding social climate of a changing post-war Britain. His photographs oozed sex and controversy, whilst always remaining startlingly engaging and attractive. 

Rosa Schiller-Crawhurst