Time-honored English fashion and portrait photographer David Bailey is 81. His prominent heyday was a time that now seems remote — one of a young Mick Jagger and the four Beatles. Now Bailey himself thinks that the day of the star professional photographer is gone forever.
A recently featured "Daily Mail" article reports Bailey's views on the current state of photography. It covers the photographer during a promotional appearance in London for his new book. Bailey tells the interviewer:
I think it's so over, that star photographer thing has gone. Like in everything. There's no star fashion person any more, it's all spread out.
During that same appearance, Bailey is reported saying that many people (including his wife) are posting cell phone photos on Instagram that are "better" than his own. That's an observation that comes off as jilted, yet humble at the same time.
While such comments may sound like dismissive grousing from an old curmudgeon, you can hear them more meaningfully by putting yourself in Bailey’s shoes. His path to stardom wasn't paved in gold. He made his way from a working-class neighborhood in East England through a spotty education hampered by failure to diagnose his dyslexia and motor skill disorder. Strongly attracted to photography, he finally caught his break with a job shooting for British Vogue in 1960. He didn't simply fall into his fame after posting iPhone photos of his restaurant dishes on a whim.
Bailey moved on from high-profile portraits to producing television series and commercials, later opening his own fashion line in the ‘70s. It's not unthinkable for a modern-day photographer to move up the ranks to new fields and greater heights. Many accomplished shooters become entrepreneurs who develop unique gear modifiers, software, or even break into the highly competitive film industry.
Is the day of the "star photographer" really over, or is it still evolving? No doubt rising stars will shine, perhaps in new cultural orbits or via media we haven’t even seen yet.
What's your reaction to Bailey's views on the current state of photography? Please leave them in the comments section below.