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SCL Photo Podcast 29: David Bailey "If We Shadows" Book Review

SCL PodcastThis week I take a quick look at a collection of '80s photographs from David Bailey.

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Show notes:

Featured Posts:

BigStockPhoto Diary 3: Three From Fourteen.

Photowalk 60 - Afternoon walk with Oliver.

1 Picture a day assignment.

if_we_shadowsDavid Bailey "If We Shadows", Book Review

"If We Shadows" by David Bailey is available in the UK from

Or get "If We Shadows" by David Bailey in the USA from

David Bailey PDN mini-site, includes 20 photo's (click on the thumbnails in the gallery to enlarge).

David Bailey at the National Portrait Gallery, with quite a few examples of his work, again click on the thumb-nails to enlarge.

David Bailey Biog on Wikipedia.

David Bailey Olympus UK TV Advert

My Notes:

Wow, at last I'm going to be talking about a book from an English Photographer - that icon of 60's London Cool - David Bailey. The younger listeners may not be familiar with the name, but for anyone over a certain age Bailey's Photographs are part of the definitive record of a time when England ruled the world in terms of fashion, music and popular culture. Still working today, Bailey also has shot films, commercials, and released several photo-books, and today I'll be talking about "If We Shadows", a collection of his work from during the 1980's.

Bailey was born in Leytonstone in 1936, but spent his childhood in the East Ham, in the heart of London's East End, hammered by the German bombers during World War 2, he didn't do academically well at school, probably due to undiagnosed dyslexia, Bailey was a copy boy in the London Offices of the Yorkshire Post Newspaper until his call up for National Service in 1956. While he served with the Royal Air Force in Singapore in 1957 Bailey bought a Rolleiflex Film camera, and his love affair with photography began.

After returning to the UK in '58 Bailey became a Photographic Assistant with David Ollins, then moved on John French's studio, where after a brief stint he went on to be contracted as a fashion photographer for Vogue Magazine, and the rest is history.

If you check the show notes for this weeks podcast, show 29 I've put plenty of links to sites featuring examples of Baileys work, there's his bio on WIkipedia, and a youtube clip of one of his old Olympus TV adverts from the 1980's.

Back to the book. Available in Hard and Soft Cover versions, as usual I got my copy from my local library. Featuring 200 duo-tone Black and White Plates, its beautifully made, and most of the Photographs are full page, just how I like it. After an introduction by George Melley, we're straight into an intriguing mix of mostly portraits with the occasional landscape and disturbing still-life thrown in.

The portraits include the rich and famous - Jack Nicholson, Glenda Jackson, Ansel Adams, Karl Largerfeld, and Arthur C Clarke to name but a few. There's various fashion models, and Bailey includes lots of pictures of his Wife, Catherine, and some include his children too.

This isn't a just celebrity vehicle though, we see work from Peru taken in the early '80's, and the odd smattering of landscapes and the afore-mentioned still lives.

On picking up and flicking through you'll at first be mesmerized by the crisp, clean, contrasty portraits, but then you'll realise that most of the photographs on facing pages are in some way related to each other. Some links are obvious, such as Bob Geldof opposite a cross, some aesthetic, some sensual or erotic like the photograph of Catherine Bailey, taken through a window as if we are spying on her, as she reclines seductively, then the opposite image is of Catherine with a new baby.

I'll say straight away that I really like this book, and I'm loathe to return, as I must, to the library. Maybe it's something to do with that every time I pick it up and look through it, I notice something different, maybe in a photograph and perhaps in the relationship between the different photographs.

This isn't a book for kids - there's several nudes, and you definitely get a sense of Baileys eroticism, unhindered by political correctness, in some of the photographs it does seem like we're peering into a very private world.

Favourite shots? I'd have to go with Catherine Bailey photographed through the Window, or the photograph of Johnny Rotten, but I'll leave the rest for you to decide at when you pick up your copy.

True, some of the images, are of their time, but this is a great collection of Baileys work, a fabulous addition to anyone's book collection, and it's on my Amazon wish list, so that I can have my own copy pretty soon.

So, "If We Shadows" by David Bailey - highly recommended and a must read.

Photo Assignment For February - "The Third Dimension"

I'm announcing this one a little early, just to allow everyone to have a real good think about what they might shoot. It'll be the usual rules, submit 2 new photographs over the month, on the theme "The Third Dimension".

Just for fun, no prizes I'm afraid, I'll put the submission thread up in about a week and a half, and we'll run it until the end February.

Long Term Assignment - "Where I Live"

When I was thinking about my photographic resolutions for 2009, one of the challenges I set myself was to photograph all the Churches in Gosport, but as I've thought about it over the last few weeks, I thought it might be a good idea if we all had a common challenge that could take us the whole year to complete.

My suggestion is that everyone sets themselves the goal of taking twelve photographs, that somehow relate to the phrase "Where I Live". It could be landmarks, the town hall, libraries, parks, roads, people, shops, etc, anything you like. But there is one catch - it must be your best work. So what I'll do is start a new thread on the Flickr forum, and the idea is that by the end of the year everyone has 12 photographs that they can be proud of, specifically about where you live. You may want to do one a month, or maybe you'll get several great shots at once and upload them together. As the seasons change you may re-visit an original location, and decide you've got a better photo, so you'll delete the first photo.

As I'm saying this maybe you've already got some ideas about which locations to shoot - but remember, we've got the whole year, so scout the scene, think about when the light might be best, take test shots, then go for it.

This will be quite unusual, as I said, because I really want it to be your best work - and you may find that as you progress through the year you may reject some of your earlier images and shoot new ones. I'd like to be in a position next January, 2010 where we've got a ton of great images, and we'll put together a photo-book, that we'll upload to one of the worldwide printing sites, so everyone can order a copy and have it delivered locally.

Technique challenges (No Time Limit):

No Sky Landscapes

Fill The Frame!

Dawn / Dusk shots

A Landscape Style Shot With Strong Foreground Interest

Remember to email me your photos if you'd like to me work on them for the Photo Workbench.

To contact me, just click on the link near the top of the page under the big picture.

Thanks for listening, see you on Flickr!

Join the Flickr Group!

Cheers, Rob.

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