Celebrity

Fashion Photographer David Bailey Doesn't Mind When His Subjects Are Grumpy

"I don't mind people that are difficult. I quite like that. It amuses me because there is always a way around it."

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Mr. Bailey, would you swear in front of the Queen?

No, if you're going to accept the Queen you have to accept the tradition. You know, I've got nothing against monarchy. I think there are too many hangers-on, but that's also a cliché thing to say. I doubt she'd be too shocked. She's been around; she's not stupid.

You recently took the official photo for her 88th birthday.

Yes and I think she looks incredible for 88. I had never photographed her before.

Why not?

I wouldn't photograph anybody if they only give you five minutes. I don't care who it is. I don't care if God phoned me up and said, "I want a picture, I've only got five minutes." I'd say, "Well, work some of your magic and make it longer!" Even though I'm actually quicker than most and I usually get bored before they get bored.

What kind of people are the most difficult to photograph?

Lots of politicians are so full of themselves. Sports people too a bit. But actors are the most difficult because you never know who you're photographing. They could be Hamlet or Lassie. But the fewer people they come with, the more interesting they usually are. Johnny Depp came with nobody so I knew it was going to be all right. Jack Nicholson never came with anybody, but Jack's different because I've known him for so long.

You once said Jack Nicholson is the smartest actor because he knows something nobody else does. What is it that he knows?

I don't fucking know. If I knew, I'd be as smart as him. (Laughs)

One of the things that fascinated me when I met him was his grin and the sparkle in his eye when he talked about women.

Yeah, with Viagra. He's the first person that told me about Viagra.

When was that?

Oh, years ago. Before everyone knew about it! (Laughs)

When you know someone very well like you do Jack Nicholson is it easier to take a great portrait of them?

It depends. It's one of those abstract things. We had a difficult bloke this week, what was he called? Van Morris or somebody…He was so grumpy. But I loved him being grumpy because I could use his grumpiness. I got a great grumpy picture out of him. If I see another picture of a rock 'n' roller against some graffiti…It drives you mad, the same old picture! Can't they ever think of something different to do? So I don't mind people that are difficult. I quite like that. It amuses me because there is always a way around it. I mean, no one could be more difficult than Van whatever he's called, Van Morrison.

Read more of The Talks with David Bailey.

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Images courtesy of The Talks.
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