SHOOT­ING STAR

The Pho­Tog­ra­Pher DAVID BAI­LEY, celebrity pho­tog­ra­pher, king of cool, chron­i­cler of the ’60s, talks art, pho­tog­ra­phy, and in­spi­ra­tion with Linn Hau­gen

Harper's Bazaar (India) - - BAZAAR - David Bai­ley’s ex­hi­bi­tion Bai­ley’s Star­dust is on till June 1, 2014, at the Na­tional Por­trait Gallery in Lon­don. www.npg.org.uk

“I’m not a pro­fes­sional, I do what I do,” says David Bai­ley, with a cer­tain amount of un­der­state­ment. Be­cause Bai­ley is leg­end. For over half a cen­tury he has pho­tographed ev­ery­body from The Bea­tles and The Rolling Stones to Princess Diana and Kate Moss. He may have shot to fame in the 1960s for cap­tur­ing the spirit of Swing­ing Lon­don with his edgy pho­tographs (think the box of poster-prints called The Box of Pin-Ups—black-and-white por­traits of celebri­ties such as AndyWarhol, Mick Jag­ger, and Jean Shrimp­ton), but Bai­ley’s work is prac­ti­cally end­less. He’s done fash­ion ed­i­to­ri­als. He’s fa­mous for his por­traits. He paints. He cre­ated a new genre, of the celebrity pho­tog­ra­pher, when along with pho­tog­ra­phers Ter­ence Dono­van and Brian Duffy—The Black Trin­ity—he both shot and par­tied with roy­alty, mu­si­cians, and ac­tors.

Fast for­ward to 2014 and Bai­ley is the man of the hour with his ex­hi­bi­tion

Bai­ley’s Star­dust at the Na­tional Por­trait Gallery in Lon­don, a land­mark ex­hi­bi­tion of por­traits with over 250 im­ages per­son­ally se­lected and printed by Bai­ley from the 1950s to the pre­sent day. Not short of op­tions, be­sides the celebrity por­traits, it also in­cludes peo­ple he met on his trav­els to Aus­tralia, In­dia, and Pa­pua New Guinea. There’s a self por­trait from his first job, with the Royal Air Force in Sin­ga­pore, in 1957. There are pic­tures from Na­ga­land. There’s Kate Moss, Mick Jag­ger, Johnny Depp. The ex­hi­bi­tion is one of the largest the gallery has had to date. The rea­son? “Well, be­cause they asked me!” Bai­ley ex­claims. He won’t let you blow it up, ei­ther. “It’s not a ret­ro­spec­tive— it’s just a col­lec­tion of por­traits from dif­fer­ent pe­ri­ods in my life.”

Bai­ley bought his first Canon rangefinder in 1958, af­ter be­ing de­mo­bilised from the Royal Air Force, and man­aged to be­come a sec­ond as­sis­tant to David Ollins. “I didn’t get breaks, I made them,” he says of his jour­ney. His progress from then is well doc­u­mented: Pho­to­graphic as­sis­tant at the John French studio, pho­tog­ra­pher at John Cole’s Studio Five in

“I’m not in­ter­ested in pho­tog­ra­phy; I’m in­ter­ested

in what you can do in it; it’s just an­other paint­brush, re­ally. The big­gest mis­take is if you start copy­ing your­self, you have to change all the time.”

1960, and soon af­ter, work with British Vogue (one year, he cre­ated an in­cred­i­ble 800 pages of ed­i­to­ri­als for the magazine).

When we speak, it emerges that Bai­ley likes to talk about art (he still shoots, and also likes to paint). So what is art to David Bai­ley? “Pho­tog­ra­phy is an art, and paint­ing is an art. It de­pends on the per­son do­ing it as an artist. For in­stance, I’m not in­ter­ested in pho­tog­ra­phy; I’m in­ter­ested in what you do in pho­tog­ra­phy. I’m in­ter­ested in what I can do with it; it’s just an­other paint brush re­ally. The big­gest mis­take is if you start copy­ing your­self. You have to slightly change all the time.”

The dis­cus­sion con­tin­ues on to the re­la­tion­ship be­tween art and pho­tog­ra­phy, and how much of pho­tog­ra­phy is art to him. “There’s noth­ing wrong with be­ing a pho­tog­ra­pher, but when you’re a pho­tog­ra­pher, it means that you’re an artist. Noth­ing wrong with be­ing a painter, but not all painters are artists. It’s a fact.”

Sec­onds later, an ex­plo­sion. It’s sparked by an in­nocu­ous ques­tion about favourites. He doesn’t like it. “I don’t do favourites! I don’t have favourite chil­dren, I don’t have favourite coun­tries, I don’t have favourite colours, and I don’t have favourite pic­tures. I’m in­ter­ested in some peo­ple, I’m in­ter­ested in whether they are artists or not, and some peo­ple I’m not in­ter­ested in. That’s the way I judge things.” But surely there must be some­thing that stands out for him af­ter all these years—a crazy mem­ory from the ’60s, a shoot where ev­ery­thing went wrong, a spe­cial his­tory? A pause. “The best thing in my life is my wife [fourth wife Cather­ine Dyer]. And she stands out.”

At 76, Bai­ley is still con­sid­ered one of Bri­tain’s best pho­tog­ra­phers. Did he ever ex­pect to come this far. “How far is that,” he asks. “All the way to New Delhi and back?”

(Above) Bai­ley’s por­traits of Ital­ian fash­ion icon, the late Anna Pi­aggi, and Bri­tain’s queen of punk, Vivi­enne West­wood

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