David Bailey’s new show, ‘Hitler killed the Duck’, opens today at Jamie Wood’s trendy Mayfair gallery Scream.
At 73 years young Bailey – the fashion photographer of Swinging 60s London, the inspiration for Blow Up AND Austin Powers, the man who once shared his Primrose Hill house with Brian Jones, a UFO-detecting machine and over 60 parrots – is exhibiting over-painted photographs of the beautiful people (Andy Warhol, Kate Moss, Jerry Hall with her knickers pulled down) alongside paintings of Disney characters and Nazis in a Blitz-ed out East End. “There was a cinema in Upton Park, an Odeon I think, and that’s where I saw Bambi and Mickey Mouse cartoons, and I thought that was the only place you could see them,” he says, recalling his youth. “Hitler bombed it, so he sort of killed Mickey Mouse, Bambi, and all those characters for me. Because all I did as a kid was draw Disney characters.” On the morning of the opening, i-D cycled into town to chat to Bailey about 21st-century London and Uncle Walt.
So, you’ve been shooting a lot for i-D recently? I’ve always done bits and pieces. I used to work with Terry [Jones] when he was art director of Vogue years ago. I met him in the 60s. We’ve always been friends.
And how’s shooting with Charlotte Stockdale? I love Charlotte. She’s great. You know, I’m not really interested in fashion. I stopped really doing fashion photography in the 80s. But Charlotte and Grace Coddington, I suppose, are two of the best fashion editors I’ve ever worked with because they respect you and let you get on with what you do.
How do you find London nowadays? Have you ever been to Hawaii? It’s perfect. There’s nothing to do, the perfect climate, you can smoke yourself silly with dope all day long… and I find it incredibly, incredibly boring. I like London. I like the aggression and the nastiness of the English and the humour. Now it’s pretty much the same as it’s always been, it’s always been aggressive and fast.
Let’s talk about the show. What was your favourite Disney film when you were growing up? Oh, Bambi, I think, and then the second was probably Snow White. I don’t like the digital ones, I like the hand painted gels. I think that Walt Disney was kind of a genius: anyone who can make a mouse sing and dance is pretty fantastic. Nobody before in history has made a mouse sing and dance. I think my two big influences were probably Walt Disney and Picasso. Both did something that nobody else had done before.
Your show references Bacon, Picasso, Velasquez, Warhol… Yeah there’s more to the old guys. I find Velasquez much more interesting than Warhol.
So who’s your favourite artist? I don’t have favourites, but if I could own one piece of art it would be The Ecstasy of St. Theresa by Bernini. That would be my favourite. That’s how I want to die. I want to be pierced in the heart by Cupid, and come, and then die! And I want the angel to say, ‘Was it good for you?’ [Laughs].
David Bailey Hitler killed the Duck runs from 7th October – 12th November at Scream.
Text and Interview: Dean Kissick