The Helsinki City Art Museum’s exhibition David Bailey – Birth of the Cool at the Tennis Palace displayed 180 mostly black and white images by the British photographer David Bailey from the 1960s onward, with an emphasis on the 60s and the 90s. The images offered an extensive view of Bailey’s work. Best known as a fashion photographer, his images are a vivid record of the 1960s and its mindset.
Born in London in 1938, Bailey’s career took off in the 1960s when he began to shoot for the Vogue magazine at the tender age of 22. He went on to become the magazine’s most prolific contributor of the decade. As a fashion photographer, he has always given centre stage to the women that modelled for him instead of the designs. In the 60s he had a close and creative relationship with three models - Jean Shrimpton, Sue Murray and Penelope Tree – and his wife Catherine Deneuve. Together, they attacked the stiffness and formality that was typical of British fashion photography. Still, Bailey’s characterizations of his models reveal a fondness for glamour and romanticism.
Bailey’s portraits are a comprehensive documentary of the people who were –and are – essential icons of the era, including Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath and Shirley McLaine. The concept ‘image’ first entered mass consciousness in the 1960s, and Bailey’s photographs played a decisive role in deciding who became idolized as media heroes. His stark, direct, high-contrast and graphically pared-down black&white images are proof that he was a master interpreter of a period described as a fusion of ‘toughness and chic’.
David Bailey – Birth of the Cool is a travelling exhibition jointly organized by the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television and the Barbican Art Gallery. The Barbican Art Gallery is owned, funded and managed by the Corporation of London. The exhibition has received support from the British Council, Anna magazine and Maximedia.