Cameraman in the fashion

Granada’s Camera in Action looks at fashion photography through the ages

Tuesday’s final programme in the action stills series Camera in Action, deals with fashion photography from Victorian times to the present day. And you’ll be seeing pictures by Anthony Armstrong-Jones, Cecil Beaton and David Bailey, the fashion photographer whose camera “made” top model Jean Shrimpton. What makes Bailey a big success?

MAGGIE FRANCE went to see him to find out

TVTimes masthead
From the TVTimes for week commencing 28 August 1965

AS fashion photographers go, David Bailey has gone a lot further than most. He is just about the most successful and most sought-after of the breed in Britain.

He is essentially a with-it young man — in a world where fantasy and practicality meet head-on: where models become the raw material of the photographer’s craft. His style — tender and exotic — is unmistakable.

For David Bailey the girls he photographs become delicate, ephemeral creatures, unlike the frequent remote and angular women in the pages of the “glossies.”

This, he believes, speaks for itself and for him.

“If I think a girl is beautiful she will be beautiful in my picture. People say that models are not really beautiful, but they are — they are the most beautiful girls in the world. Usually,” he said, “I love them.

“It is impossible not to become emotionally involved with them. There they are, looking marvellous and beautiful … it is inevitable. It is the same with any lovely thing.”

Bailey is the man who made Jean Shrimpton the most famous and most copied model in the world. The frail, fey face that has launched a thousand front covers.

Bailey has an inconsequential charm. He has the face of a disenchanted cherub; brown, restless eyes; shaggy hair. He looks very young. He is 27.

He dislikes fervently being labelled a “fashionable” photographer, and rejects impatiently the idea that photography is the new art form.

“It is creative — but a photographer just creates something from the materials available. Like a skilled cabinet maker. You can’t call that art.”

Behind his camera Bailey is absorbed, concentrated. If he is arrogant it is because he knows he is good at the job.

“Sometimes,” he said, “I hate what I am doing to the girls. It turns them from human beings into objects. They begin to get fanatical about the way they look. They can’t stop watching themselves in mirrors.”

Fashion and photography. Ever since the camera was invented there hasn’t been one without the other. Above, as it must have been in early Edwardian days. Below, you see David Bailey at work creating another of the masterpieces that have made him the most sought-after fashion photographer in Britain today

Before I met Bailey a photographer colleague told me: “You’ll get on fine … you are a girl.”

Certainly it is believable that he can, if he requires it, make a girl fall in love with him across the room. But not every girl. Some react against his confidence and this unobtrusive talent for getting his own way.

“If a girl feels that way about me I just needle her until I have got the degree of aggressiveness I need. I think an aggressive woman can look very good in a picture,” he said.

He is newly married to French actress Catherine Deneuve. “This girl I’ve married is a very funny girl,” he said. “I feel that it is doomed to success. But I never want to work with her if I can help it. I think that would break it up.”

He reverted to the subject of fashion … he has just signed a new contract with Vogue magazine.

“I like what I do, but it is not my whole existence. I take fashion pictures, but I am not particularly interested in fashion.”

He prefers to take portraits, and has a book of portraits to be published soon. It is called “David Bailey’s Book of Pinups” — he is concerned that no one should hold him responsible for the title.

He plans also to direct a film — a science fiction story which he has written himself. “Funny, but sinister,” he explained. The provisional title is “The Assassination of Mick Jagger.” The star is Mick Jagger. “He’s one of my best friends,” said Bailey.

He has no intention of shinning up trees to take fashion pictures at 40.

He is crazy about furniture and wants to open an antique shop. He believes he will do this soon — he makes decisions swiftly and carries them out with jet propelled speed whether they concern making a film or going round the corner for coffee.

His three cars: a mini, a blue and black Rolls-Royce convertible which is his favourite possession; a Morgan which looks like a cherished veteran, but is in fact this year’s model, and which he drives like a bat out of hell.

He remarked that the Morgan was not very fast – only did 110 mph.

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