At the 2016 Photography Show I managed to attend An Interview with David Bailey on the main stage. Although this was the main stage at the event, it was only separated from other areas by curtains, and as result it was very difficult to hear the interview with the noise from the stage next door, particularly as I was at the back. this was more than a pity as the David Bailey interview was a paid-for event, whereas the other stage was giving free lectures. Even worse, the noise was a disturbance to Bailey himself, which he regularly commented on during the event.
Bailey himself was in an ebullient mood, and kept the audience well amused with his anecdotes and often foul language throughout the interview. He told us how he loved shooting models like Kate Moss and Jean Shrimpton, saying that they made his job easy, as they were relaxed and able to instantly create the pose he required for the shot. He commented on taking photographs of celebrities, how some were easy, whilst others, particularly Van Morrison, were extremely difficult.
He told us of his visits to the cannibals of Papua New Guinea and more recently his visit to the Nuba Hills of Sudan. The fact that he was warmly welcomed by the people despite the dangers of rebel fighters in the area, but that how he had thought that he might not make it back due to the terrible terrain that he had to cross to get there.
He talked about his early days in East London, how he had known and photographed the Kray twins, and the poor life that he had spent with his parents as a child.
Throughout the interview his pictures were shown on screens either side of the stage, although there didn’t seem to be any particular sequence to them which was rather a pity, making his commentary jump around in terms of time and subject.
The few specific items which struck me from the interview were his comment that his interest was in creating images and that the camera was just a tool, much like a paintbrush. We were also shown one of his earliest shots, taken in the 1950’s when he was doing national service. He had been lent a camera and was learning to use it, so set up a self portrait using the delay timer on the shutter. The perfect framing of this early shot, showing him in bed with a copy of a Picasso painting above his head where other soldiers had pin-ups, made the point that a talent like his is innate and not simply learned.