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Posted by on Mar 10, 2014 in ARTICLES | 0 comments

Bailey’s Stardust: National Portrait Gallery


The iconic work of photographic legend, David Bailey, is currently being exhibited for public viewing at the National Portrait Gallery, on Trafalgar Square.

More than 250 portraits, which will be displayed in the Lerner and Wolfson Galleries until June 1st, have been personally selected by David Bailey, himself, from the hundreds of subjects he has captured throughout his many decades as a professional photographer.

Upon entering the exhibition, attention is immediately drawn towards the many famous faces that Bailey has photographed, beginning with an alluring 2013 portrait of Kate Moss, shamelessly promoting the pulled-through-a-hedge-backwards look.

Each collection of celebrity portraits has been organised into groups, dependent upon the profession of the subjects, for example, fashion designers, actors and actresses, and singers. Some, such as the fantastically unusual portrait of Mia Farrow, date back to the 1960s. Others depict modern day icons such as Beyoncé and Noel Gallagher.

The ‘Fashion Icons and Beauty’ selection was a particular highlight. Black and white shots of many designers including Tom Ford, Karl Lagerfeld and Yves St Laurent are displayed along with a brilliant colour shot of Vivienne Westwood, towering several feet above viewers’ heads and a fun-loving portrait of Alexander McQueen (in a kilt, of course).

As well as stereotypical celebrity shots, there are many other elements to the exhibition. Firstly, the ‘Sudan’ collection stands out, purely because it is more outrightly meaningful – several images hang depicting starving children and this bares a stark contrast in comparison to the highly glamourous shots of the famous faces. The ‘Dehli’ collection also stands pronounced from the rest, simply because of the way in which it embraces foreign culture.

Aside from these, the ‘East End’ collection was a personal highlight. This selection of images depicts East London characters in the 1960s, including two women at the Rio Club, shot in 1968 and a man at Repton Boxing Club (which still stands today), also shot in 1968. It’s amazing how images of such ordinary subjects can be so defining. To see everyday London life as it was 50 years ago was incredibly interesting.

The ‘Camera Phone’ collection is what it says on the tin – images of people living within East London and Harlem, aptly named due the fact that the photographs were captured on a camera phone. It’s amazing to think that a mobile phone can reproduce images of such outstanding quality.

For those seeking something a little more outrageous are the ‘Democracy’ nudes; from the plain and boring to the downright bizarre, one word which I would not use to describe these shots is ‘tasteful’, needless to say my eyes didn’t linger here for too long.

As expected, the exhibition has been hugely successful, so far. However, it has received mixed reviews from the press.

The Telegraph’s Alastair Sooke said: “It is impossible not to be impressed by the sheer brightness of the star-wattage lighting up the walls of the National Portrait Gallery like Manhattan twinkling at night.”