One of the world’s most distinguished and distinctive photographers, David Bailey has made an outstanding contribution to the visual arts, creating consistently imaginative and thought-provoking portraits. As well as including new work, this exhibition contains a wide variety of Bailey’s photographs from a career that has spanned more than half a century.
The portraits have been personally selected by Bailey from the subjects and groups that he captured over the last five decades: photographers, actors, writers, musicians, filmmakers, fashion icons, designers, models, artists and people encountered on his travels; many of them famous, some unknown, all of them engaging and memorable. Bailey has made new silver gelatin prints of his black-and-white portraits especially for the exhibition.
Bailey’s Stardust is structured thematically, with iconic images presented alongside many lesser-known portraits, its title reflecting the notion we are all made from, and return to, ‘stardust’. Portraits of a range of sitters – from the glamorous to the impoverished, the famous to the notorious – are presented in a series of contrasting rooms, and through images of skulls and pregnancy, powerful meditations on birth and death.
There are rooms devoted to Bailey’s travels in Australia, Delhi and the Naga Hills, as well as icons from the worlds of fashion and the arts, and people of the East End of London. There are selections from two of Bailey’s most acclaimed bodies of work: the Box of Pin-Ups, which helped define the 1960s through arresting studies of key figures, and Bailey’s Democracy, in which people visiting his studio were asked if they would agree to be photographed naked.
Rooms devoted to striking portraits of The Rolling Stones and Catherine Bailey contrast with remarkable documentary photographs from the photographer’s expedition to Papua New Guinea in 1974 and moving images of those devastated by the famine in east Africa, taken in support of the Band Aid charity in 1985.
The exhibition of the work of David Bailey will run at the National Portrait Gallery, London from February 6 to June 1, 2014. It is one of the Gallery’s larger-scale photography exhibitions, with over 300 portraits occupying most of its ground floor.