David Bailey: Bailey’s Stardust at the National Portrait Gallery
Taking over the ground floor of the National Portrait Gallery, Bailey’s Stardust spans the life and work of one of the most prolific photographers of our generation. From actors, writers, models, musicians, filmmakers and fellow photographers, to designers, artists, lovers, strangers, family and friends, David Bailey’s portraits tell a colourful tale of a man who’s seen and shot it all.
Charged with creating and documenting the swinging 60s, whole rooms are dedicated to portraits of Jean Shrimton, Penelope Tree, Mick Jagger and other icons of the age. A mix of black, white and colour, these portraits all share one thing, the mark of celebrity and a shimmer of stardust. A particularly hazy photograph of Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol emphasises just how far back Bailey’s career spans.
Moving away from the Mods, in another room 80s glamour oozes through a portrait of Jerry Hall and Helmut Newton, taken in Cannes in 1983. With her head thrown back, the buxom blonde drapes herself in fur and kicks her leg out for an adoring Helmut to hold.
In contrast, particularly striking is his series Democracy. Unlike the waifish figures and brooding pouts of his celebrity portraits, these large, nude photographs of strangers find stardom in the ordinary, and in one particular case, the heavily pierced and the extraordinary.
Next we jump to the family album – a room dedicated to portraits of his wife Catherine, and three children: Fenton, Sasha and Paloma. Although one expects to find a contrast between the familiarity and tenderness with which he might photograph his family and the way he shoots celebrities such as Kate Moss, Beyoncé and Damon Alban, what is fascinating is that whoever Bailey captures, he has the ability to transform them into icons. The same can be said for his portraits of Burmese elders, East African children and the other heroes of his adventures in Papua New Guinea, Australia, Dehli, and the Naga Hills. And his sculptures, which are dotted around exhibition, prove that Bailey isn’t just a fashion photographer – he’s an artist.
Overall, this is an enchanting exhibition and a comprehensive study of stardom through the ages.
Bailey’s Stardust is at the National Portrait Gallery from 6th February to 1st June 2014, for further information visit here.