BATD ON Feb 04, 2014 AT 1:04 pm

by Annie Vischer

David Bailey's Stardust at the National Portrait Gallery

David Bailey’s Stardust at the National Portrait Gallery

A London boy born and bred, David Bailey, was born in Leytonstone, the son of a tailor’s cutter and a machinist. He grew up in London’s East End, truanting from school more than he attended it, passing through a series of short term jobs, before being called up for his National Service and serving with the Royal Air Force in Singapore in 1957.

After returning to London he sought more creative outlets and set his sights on photography. He fought his way to the position of photographic assistant at the John French Studio in 1959, and in 1960 became a photographer for John Cole’s Studio 5. In the same year he was contracted as a fashion photographer for British Vogue. Such quick and determined progress is unthinkable today.

David Bailey

David Bailey

Bailey was then in prime position to capture Britain and fashion in the ‘Swinging Sixties’, which is exactly what he did. He became famed for Vogue covers and poster prints of 60s pin-ups.

According to American Vogue’s creative director Grace Coddington, who made her name in the 60s as a red-headed model, ‘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’.

This was of course the love affair that catapulted both of their celebrity credentials to new heights, though it never overshadowed Bailey’s artistic talent.

Kate Moss by David Bailey, part of the Stardust collection at the National Portrait Gallery.

Kate Moss by David Bailey, part of the Stardust collection at the National Portrait Gallery.

This season over 250 of Bailey’s photographs are exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in the Stardust exhibition. Whole rooms of the gallery are devoted to Bailey’s shots of well-known icons, from the Rolling Stones to Kate Moss, as well as his time in East Africa, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Delhi, Naga Hills and his homeland of East London.

Bailey’s Stardust is at the National Portrait Gallery from Thursday 6th February.


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