A Peek Into Photographer David Bailey’s “Swinging London”

Screenshots from the video

If the United States had Richard Avedon, the United Kingdom has David Bailey. Hailed as one of the pioneers of contemporary photography, the English photographer continues to be a big name in the world of fashion and portrait photography to this day. Along with Terence Donovan and Brian Duffy, he was instrumental in crafting the “Swinging London” of the 1960s, a culture of high fashion and celebrity chic. While this youthful cultural revolution reminds us of a London that was vibrant with its music, creative experimentation, and freedom of expression, it also gave rise to the familiar stereotype of the fashionable and pretentious photographer. Still, the elite group of Bailey, Donovan, and Duffy were credited with works from this era that were met with both commercial success and artistic credibility.

Together called by fellow photographer Norman Parkinson as the “Black Trinity,” they socialized extensively with the famous at the time — actors, musicians, and royalty. Eventually, they found themselves catapulted into celebrity status, among the first to be ever declared as such.

Soon after working as a photographic assistant in 1959 then a fledgling photographer in 1960, Bailey began his meteoric rise as a fashion photographer for British Vogue. Within months, he was shooting covers and editorials, and taking the portraits of the 1960’s most iconic faces such as “Swinging London” icon Jean Shrimpton, Mick Jagger, and The Beatles. In 1964, he released his Box of Pin-Ups, a box containing poster prints of his snapshots of these celebrities. The rest, as they say, was history.

In the video below by Fashion Industry Broadcast, we are given a glimpse of David Bailey’s colorful life, the stylish scene where he thrived, and the legacy he continues to craft today.

The most inspiring take-away from the clip? Definitely these words of wisdom from David Bailey himself:

“I never understand when people say, ‘I don’t know what to photograph.’ Just look at a concrete wall with cracks in it and you can paint for eternity from that. I’m never at a loss to find out what to do next; it’s there. What you have to do is open your eyes.”