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Biography: David Bailey

By Linnie Rawlinson for CNN
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With a streetwise swagger, David Bailey burst onto the London scene to inspire and document the Swinging Sixties with his iconic black and white photographs.

Born in 1938 in the East End of the British capital, Bailey started taking photographs with his mother's Brownie camera. Inspired by Picasso, when Bailey first saw his paintings of Dora Maar, he says, "It was like getting religion: in those few paintings he showed me there were no rules."

Self-taught and determined to avoid the East End career paths of "gangster, car thief or boxer", he joined John French's studio as a photographic assistant and then accepted a contract with Vogue. His fashion photographs of Jean Shrimpton created the first supermodel; his groundbreaking tightly cropped, high-contrast images depicting Marianne Faithfull, the Beatles, Twiggy, Mick Jagger, Michael Caine and East End gangsters the Kray twins quickly became synonymous with swinging London.

Bailey became part of the 'Terrible Three', running riot in society circles with Terence Donovan and Brian Duffy. Working class, heterosexual and notorious for their colorful exploits, they were the antithesis of established fashion photographers. Bailey's celebrity lifestyle inspired the 1966 movie "Blowup".

Bailey also branched out into commercials and filmmaking, including a 1973 documentary on Andy Warhol. "He said he wouldn't do it with me unless I went to bed with him so we did lots of the interviews in bed together. He'd just started doing the silk screens; I think he was working on the Elvis one."

Despite his success, Bailey claims, "I've never felt I've made it or I'd stop because it's boring doing something you've done. Once you've made the perfect piece of furniture I guess you move on." This constant striving to innovate has kept him at the forefront of his art. He says of his 2005 book, "Democracy", a series of naked portraits, "Everyone was treated exactly the same. Everyone had the same frame, the same light, six clicks and no digital, no retouching, just exactly as they were."

His latest book, Havana was inspired by Walker Evans. He says, "I've always been fascinated with Cuba because of his photo of a black guy up against a newsstand." He describes "Havana" as "a superficial last moment of Havana before Castro goes and Miami moves back."

Bailey's subjects over the course of his career have been broad. He says, "You never come to the end of it; you're always looking for the magic that happens so you keep on doing it. You alter things slightly so you're not doing the same thing but it's so subtle only a few people would notice."

Bailey was awarded the CBE in 2001. He is married to the actress Catherine Dyer.

Selected publications:
Havana (2006)
Bailey's Democracy (2005)
Archive Two "Locations" (2003)
Chasing Rainbows (2001)
Archive One (1999)
Rock & Roll Heroes (1997)
The Lady is a Tramp (1995)
If We Shadows (1991)
Nudes 1981-1984 (1984)
Black & White Memories (1983)
London NW1 (1982)
Trouble and Strife (1980)
Papua New Guinea (1975)
Warhol (1974)
Goodbye Baby & Amen (1969)
Box of Pin-Ups (1964)

Selected filmography:
The Intruder (1999)
Models Close Up (1998)
The Lady is a Tramp (1995)
Who Dealt? (1992)
Andy Warhol (1973)
Beaton by Bailey (1971)

Bailey in his studio with his dog, Pig

Bailey's 1960s black and white photographs became icons of Swinging London


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