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David Bailey has authored dozens of books, but “Look Again” is his first autobiography. As the title suggests, the photographer is less interested in reminiscing and keener on pushing himself and others to look beyond first impressions.
The memoir delves into Bailey’s past and includes sometimes-scathing accounts of his relationships with heavyweights in the world of fashion, media, show business and politics — though he maintains he told the stories “in the nicest possible way.”
“Being a photographer, you have to know how to deal with anyone, from the bloke on the [street] corner to the Queen, so you have to behave,” he said.
Speaking in conversation with BoF Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks, the famed photographer shares anecdotes from his storied and colourful past.
Since he first burst onto the scene in 1960, photography has drastically changed alongside technology. “iPhones killed photography in a way because everyone can take a picture,” he said, adding, “it’s made it into a kind of folk art,” which has its merits.
As Blanks notes, Bailey lost interest in fashion photography for a while in the 1970s, a period Bailey blames on his dislike of some editors and the grind of the fashion cycle. It was “another frock and another frock and another girl and another girl.” It took the emergence of Kate Moss — alongside ’60s supermodel Jean Shrimpton one of Bailey’s top muses — to excite him again. “They’re both exceptional… important people, much more important than people think.”
While Bailey is not one for nostalgia, he can pinpoint one photograph that defines an era — and himself as a photographer. “I’ve got one picture that I feel sums up everything: [British actor] Michael Caine with an unlit cigarette,” he said. “I feel it sums up the ’60s for me. Not a miniskirt but a close-up of Michael Caine.”