David Bailey was born in the East End of London in 1938. Throughout his youth, he worked in many jobs including shoe salesman, window dresser and carpet salesman. Bailey thought that the answer to escaping the East End was perhaps to become a musician. He has stated “I bought a trumpet and prayed to Chet Baker."
It was not until 1956 when he was posted to Singapore with the British Royal Air Force that Bailey really connected with photography and became interested in how photographs were made. Bailey admired the work of Henri Cartier Bresson and started to devour the images in Life Magazine and American Photo Journals around at that time. After leaving the Air Force in 1958, Bailey went on to get a job with David Olin who supplied photographs for Queen Magazine and worked as an assistant to fashion photographer John French.
At just 22 years old in 1960, Bailey was taking photographs for Vogue, quickly shooting to fame as a photographer. He was sought out by bands such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who to take images that pushed the boundaries of rock and roll photography. The swinging sixties meant that photographers of the rock and roll musicians, models and celebrities of the time were in high demand and Bailey himself quickly became a celebrity in his own right. While Baron Wolman was making his name with pictures for “Rolling Stone Magazine" in America, David Bailey was making his name in “Queen" and “British Vogue" magazines.
Bailey’s friendship with Mick Jagger began at this time and he created many of the iconic images that are associated with the Rolling Stones. Bailey went to the shows when the Rolling Stones first began, these shows would be tiny halls with poor equipment but they were quickly becoming the outrageous stars of the era. The first image in David Bailey’s Rock and Roll Heroes is of Mick Jagger in 1964 with long hair trailing over his collar, which caused such an outrage at the time. Bailey followed the Stones throughout the 60s and created many iconic and stylist challenging images that reflected the times.
David Bailey still works in photography from his studio on Gray's Inn Road in London. Recently he has photographed the last bullfighters and has been doing charity work in Afghanistan.