Bailey’s Stardust at the National Gallery of Scotland features more than 300 works by David Bailey, and has been curated by Bailey himself.
For many people, myself included, Bailey is first and foremost a fashion photographer, and his photographs of the “beautiful people” of the fashion, film and music scene are what first comes to mind. These are well represented here, with dozens of portraits of people such as Kate Moss, Jean Shrimpton, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Terence Stamp, and Johnny Depp, as well as designers and other artists including Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, Damien Hirst and Peter Blake. Despite this, it is interesting to note that Bailey never actually considered himself to be a fashion photographer, just a photographer.
This exhibition, however, shows much wider aspects of Bailey’s work, such as his portraits of the tribespeople of Papua New Guinea from 1974 and Australian Aboriginals taken in 1983. It also features his photos taken in refugee camps in Sudan in 1984, which helped to raise awareness for Band Aid, and for which Bailey charged no fee. There is also an exhibit called “Democracy”, where Bailey asked people to pose naked for him, and he allotted just 10 minutes to each subject. These black and white studies of “real people” are in stark contrast to the shots of models who are made-up, dressed up and probably spent hours getting their poses just right.
One fascinating range of his photographs in this exhibition which moves way from his usual portraiture is a small selection taken in the East End of London in 1961/1962, which records streets and ruined buildings which are a relic of bomb damage from the war years.
My particular favourites from this exhibition are at opposite extremes of portraiture, but both stunning in their own way. One is an incredible close up profile of Man Ray, which shows just his eye and nose, in which every line and pore is defined in sharp detail. The other is of Kate Moss from a small range called “Seeds of Beauty” in which the photo is cropped to an oval shape, and surrounded by delicate silk-screened flowers, which is reminiscent of a Victorian photo album.
There is so much to see here, whether you are interested in the photography or in the subjects of the photos. Stardust is here until 18th October, so be sure and make time to go and see it.