“I never wanted to grow up. I used to see grown-ups and think, ‘Shit, I don’t want to be one of those.’ I used to see them getting into the tube train in East Ham Station on the District Line. All these people grown up, I thought, ‘Ooh, I don’t think I want to grow up. I still want to believe in fairies when I’m 50.’” David Bailey.
Click images to enlarge.
With a mother from Bow, a father from Hackney and many a family tree branch sprouting from Whitechapel, David Bailey returns home to London’s East End for an exhibition that takes us on a captivating trip down his memory lane. Bailey has always been one for setting his own rules and his new exhibition ‘David Bailey’s East End’ proves no difference. Set inside a converted red brick factory in the depths of East London’s Docklands, merely a mile from where he grew up in Newham, Bailey invites visitors to take a step out of Central London hubbub and delve into his world of times gone by.
Focusing on imagery from the 60s, 80s and 00s, we are presented with key periods in his photographic archive, revisiting both the physical and social surroundings of his youth and ancestral history. These three different periods in Bailey’s life, seen through three different camera lenses, results in three distinct aesthetics, all of which seamlessly come together to convey a prominent degree of nostalgia; life as it was, life as it is and life as it will be for London’s most diverse borough. i-D’s Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Terry Jones caught up with Bailey back in April when the planning of the exhibition was in full swing.
So, how many different nationalities have gone through the East End? Endless. More than anywhere in the world. London has always been a melting pot. They say America is, but it’s not. In America you still have your defined areas…your Italian town, Greek town and Irish town.
Where did you take the photos in the exhibition? Everywhere… the whole of the East End.
When you were living there, what was your daily life like? Would you go to museums? Museums? No! We’re talking about the East End! Couldn’t afford to go to museums. We’d be lucky to get a cheese roll!
Where did you first start developing your film? Film? I used to do it in my mum’s cellar!
In the 60’s Polaroid didn’t exist. What did you do then? I never did Polaroids to see what the pictures would look like. I used to use Polaroid after I had done the actual photograph because I didn’t want to be influenced by it. I only did them to make sure the cameras were working! I didn’t use it like half those photographers back then, their Polaroid shots are much better than their pictures!
You didn’t follow the rules did you? No, I don’t like rules.
But you fix your own rules? Well someone has got to. Am I going to use your rules? If I get it wrong I’m going to do it my way. I’d be like Frank Sinatra, do it my way, get Alzheimer’s and forget I did it my way.
David Bailey’s East End, 6 July – 5 August 2012, Compressor House, Royal Docks, Dockside Road, Newham, London, E16 2QD. Book your tickes on the Create website