‘I was never that interested in fashion,’ Bailey told the Telegraph of his early years as a fashion photogapher. ‘It was the only way that a photographer in those days could earn a living creatively.’
The creator of some of the most memorable images in fashion history did say he has ‘enormous respect’ for fellow icons Grace Coddington and Karl Lagerfeld, and that Gianni Versace was ‘one of the most intelligent men I’ve spent time with.’
(He also reserves a special admiration for Victoria Beckham: ‘I think she looks very smart and she dresses a lot better than lots of people like that,’ he said. ‘I’m not mad about the shoes she wears. They look like they hurt a bit—if you were told you had to wear those for the rest of your life you’d burst out crying.’)
Bailey is far from alone in his disdain for the fashion industry. As Photographer’s Gallery founder Sue Davies OBE explained in the current issue of Twin, Bailey and his ‘60s fashion photography peers ‘all wanted to be artists,’ rather than work for magazines.
When Davies opened the Gallery, ‘David Bailey wanted a show, but he didn’t want to put any of his fashion stuff in. He wanted to do all his East End pictures. I let him do it but I was a bit disheartened,’ she said. ‘It was no use trying to tell them that actually, other people could do that better.’
Incidentally, some of those photographs probably appear in Bailey's new exhibition. Called David Bailey’s East End, it’s on display until 5 August at Compressor House, Royal Docks, Dockside Road, Newham, London E16 2QD.