Bailey’s StardustPublié par Marie-Eve Rochon le 8 février 2014
In a life-size black and white print, John Galliano is seen dancing, an ecstatic grin on his face. He appears free and wild, like the eccentric he was known as before his infamous fall from grace. With Bailey’s Stardust, the National Portrait Gallery explores the photographer’s unusual talent for creating highly emotional pictures that epitomize his subject’s personality.
David Bailey’s portraits are most often shot in black and white on a bare background, allowing the person’s character to come forth. As the exhibition’s notes rightfully point out, some of his most memorable portraits of actors and musicians were taken early in their careers and became their defining image.
Although he doesn’t primarily describes himself as a fashion photographer, David Bailey’s claim to fame came through his collaboration with Vogue in the 1960s. But like his portraits of famous artists, his fashion photographs are first and foremost about people, not clothes. Stripping away all the excess (although fashion is so often about exuberance), Bailey reveals fashion makers’ inner selves.
A pensive Yves Saint Laurent is shown in an intimate close-up. Karl Lagerfeld exits an elegant stone house in long, busy strides wearing his signature look, albeit before white mane. Lee Alexander McQueen is captured mid-jump wearing a tartan kilt and a joyful expression on his face.
Apart from fashion’s finest, the exhibition features many artists, such as Jack Nicholson, Andy Warhol and David Bowie. Bailey also turned his lens on photographer legends Cecil Beaton and Henri Cartier-Bresson. He shot numerous portraits of the people of Papua New Guinea, India and Sudan. A whole room is dedicated to pictures of his wife, former model Catherine Bailey.
Ironically, the exhibition closes on a series of still life images of skulls. The photographer explains: “I think these are portraits, just without flesh and bone. I like the idea that we all end up as a piece of art”. As far as becoming a work of art goes, being shot by Bailey can’t hurt.
Bailey’s Stardust is on show at the National Portrait Gallery until June 1st, 2014.