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David Bailey: Stardust at the National Portrait Gallery

'David Bailey has made an outstanding contribution to photography and the visual arts, creating consistently imaginative and thought-provoking portraits. As well as new work, this landmark exhibition includes a wide variety of Bailey’s photographs from a career that has spanned more than half a century.'

National Portrait Gallery

It was my birthday a few weeks ago and as a birthday treat, me and the man took a trip into London to see David Bailey's new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

I was particularly interested to see this show as Bailey had curated it himself: chosen all the images and put the exhibition together.

I've always been a fan of Bailey, particularly his 'Box of Icons' series. He managed to capture a whole decade of celebrity and popular culture. I've always loved the classics, such as Mick Jagger, John Lennon and Paul McCartney and the Cray brothers...

but, I also discovered some others I was less familiar with but have become new favourites, like Rudolph Nureyev (who you just can't NOT look at!) with photographic legend Cecil Beaton.

A great section of the show was the room filled with portraits and photographs of Bailey's family. It was a real visual timeline of their lives together. His young, model wife…pregnancy…even intimate photos of birth...and then his children growing up and becoming adults. A lot of these images were displayed covering a huge wall, all in different frames, all different sized prints. It was a real family, homely kind of feel. These images had been taken over decades, using different cameras, different films, different processes etc. and it was beautiful to see the ever-changing nature of life reflected in how these photos were displayed. Definitely a highlight of the show.

Other stand-out photos for me included his self portrait with his dog, Pig Bailey, and the skull and roses series.

(I would have this on my wall if I had a spare £35,000!)

However, I think the most impressive photograph for me, the one which has stayed with me since, was a shot from Bailey's Democracy series. It was a photo (a huge photo!) of a naked, pregnant woman, throwing her hands in the hair and screaming, or shouting with joy (or so I like to think.) It was an image so full of happiness and buoyancy and was so carefree. She looked so happy in her skin; something we should probably all feel more! A brilliant image!

In conclusion, David Bailey is an absolute legend and I love him now even more than I did!


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