Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Life in the Glare of Celebrity

Let's talk about David Bailey for a moment.

I never quite understood how big a deal he was in London in the 1960s and 70s. He was actually a celebrity.

So? One could be forgiven for asking. You'll die not knowing a lot of things so is this really one of the most important bits of knowledge for you to die owning?

No. But the guy's kind of interesting.

Of course, I've always known he was the model for the lead character in Blow Up, which I saw again within the last couple of years and was pleasantly surprised at how well it held up.

I certainly knew he had photographed most everyone who was anyone in those days, and that should have been a clue as to the degree of his own fame. (But then, Irving Penn did as well, in his day, and Fred Astaire never played him in a movie.)

But I didn't know he was married to Catherine Deneuve (her only marriage.) It was only for a minute or two as in the end they realized they didn't speak the same language and therefore could not communicate. Stuff like that happens I suppose when one marries and divorces more genetically-gifted women than can be found in the average September issue of Vogue. (If I was pressed for the truth I would admit they were actually married for 5 years.)

Further, he claims to have slept with 350 of the models he photographed. Well, I don't know...that's so far afield my ken that all I can imagine is that those photo-sessions must have been so exhausting and what he meant was that they were compelled to take a nap.

Be that as it may, this is all by way of presenting a couple of press photos I found of Bailey and his women. (Yes, yes, a very slight post.)

First, we have him in 1969 at the publication party for Goodbye Baby and Amen with his then-girlfriend Penelope Tree, who was a pretty big deal in her day. According to the caption, everyone who was anyone showed up.

(6 x 8 inches)



And in 1975 with his then-wife Marie Helvin, another well-known model at the time. (Looking at this photo, I wonder: why the walking stick?) Helvin is the subject of all the images in David Bailey's Trouble and Strife, which, as a model, must have been difficult shoots for her. There aren't enough clothes in the whole book to fill Carl Perkin's Matchbox.

(6 x 8 inches)



So given those two images, I decided to make this a "way of all flesh" sort of a rumination. The guy was handsome young and his face is pretty interesting as it ages. So here is a portrait from a 1988 article in American Photo. (Note the author.)

(8 x 10.5 inches)


Here's a later pic. Same pose.

Finally, this is his publicity photo that runs in all the "contributors" pages of magazines he shoots for. This one is in Vanity Fair, edited by the above noted author.

And for goodness' sake, he still hasn't finished that cigar.

Coming up, in no particular order, some Bourke-White booklets, the 1936 Artists' Congress, and Misrach announcement cards and posters.


Mr Whiskets said...

I was three days shy of being one year old by the date of that first photo.

Don said...

Remember, that was a British agency so 9-11-69 would be November 9, 1969. Or maybe you figured that out...