With Bailey’s Stardust http://preview.tinyurl.com/os6ohtu exhibition just opened at Edinburgh’s National Gallery we once again have a show that will woo Festival visitors. Seeing the adverts on the sides of buses reminded me that I shot him once. It was a setup hatched in an noisy newspaper office in Glasgow's Albion Street.
Of course I didn’t shoot him exactly. Rather I was commissioned to take his portrait. He was having an exhibition at the then recently opened Dean Gallery and editor Cate Devine wanted his image for the cover of The Herald Saturday Magazine. ‘We need it in colour and he won’t supply one’.
So off I went to London complete with the specific instruction that the journalist was to make his entry before I showed up in case Bailey’s time was short. The interview took precedence over my shot and I should await a text from the journalist confirming his arrival.
It came as planned and, assistant in tow, I knocked on the door which was promptly answered by his assistant.
’We know nothing about a portrait’
‘But I’ve come from Edinburgh just for this. It was arranged by the Herald’
‘There is no arrangement and besides we can supply a portrait’.
‘It needs to be colour to make the magazine cover. That’s why I’m here’
‘Stay there and let me talk to him’ He slammed the door.
10 minutes later he returned.
‘This is most unusual’
‘By the way I’ve a present from Scotland for David’
‘And he doesn’t drink anymore’
‘Well it’s bad luck to return malt whisky to Scotland so please you take it’ (it was a serious bottle too)
‘thank you very kind of you. Bailey wants to know what you’re shooting with’
I listed my kit and he disappeared again.
10 minutes later he returned and smiling he explained that we had 15 minutes and led us up the stairs.
‘We’d have done exactly the same so relax.. you’re in now’
Bailey greeted us with a frown while the journalist grinned broadly behind his back.
‘I’ve clients coming in at 1 and you need to be gone by then. Get set up’. And softening somewhat.. ‘Use the cove if you want. Need lights’?
’Thanks but I brought a backdrop and a light’ and we set in motion a preplanned drill which consisted of a grey backdrop, a ringflash, 2 rolls of colour transparency and (deviously?) a single roll of black & white.
Within seconds he was sitting in front of my camera chatting about the colour film I was using and complaining about the flash and berating a make-up-artist with ‘if it was good enough for [he named a famous model] then it’s good enough for you’.
3 rolls of film later we were finished and shook hands. Another 5 minutes and we were ready to leave when the doorbell went and, earlier than expected, up came his 1 pm client [an eminent Irish band fronted by a saint]
Back in Scotland everyone was very happy of course including the main broadsheet editor who commandeered the image for his pages. My shot never made the magazine cover.
Or was that another setup I didn’t see?