My first glimpse of Jean Shrimpton was when I poked my head round the door of my mate Brian Duffy’s photographic studio. She’d been sent by a model agency and was posing for a Kellogg’s ad.
Duffy was using a sky-blue background, and you could see the sky behind her eyes, as if you could see through her head.
I just fell in love with her eyes — the first thing I noticed — and said: ‘Who’s that girl?’ Duffy said: ‘Forget it, Bailey, she’s too posh for you.’
My first glimpse of Jean Shrimpton was when I poked my head round the door of my mate Brian Duffy’s photographic studio. She’d been sent by a model agency and was posing for a Kellogg’s ad
I think we fell in love with each other straight away, although I was an odd choice for Jean. She’d been used to people who drove MGs and were called Ponsonby or something, and suddenly she’d met this East End bloke with a Morgan who couldn’t even spell Ponsonby.
Her father was a very successful builder who also had quite a big farm, 200 acres in Buckinghamshire — but Jean was definitely posh. I’m called Bailey because of her. I got lumbered with that because she used to go out with public schoolboys, who were all called by their surname.
When I took the first pictures of Jean, she was all arms and legs, like Bambi on the ice, but I realised her arms always went in the right place, her hands were always in the right place and she always knew where the light was.
She was an exceptional model. It’s something you can’t put your finger on. I suppose it’s a kind of visual intelligence. I didn’t explain anything to her; she had instinct, she knew how to move.
David Bailey, pictured, provides an amazing insight into his wonderful career
Did John Lennon steal my line?
Looking back, by 1964 the Sixties only had a couple of years to run before it became pastiche and tourism and a kind of parody. That was the year the Ad Lib club opened, in Leicester Place, London, and ran for two heady years.
I always thought the Sixties was a small group of people, maybe not more than 150 at the outside, maybe as few as 15 when it started up.
They were mostly my mates, and many were — or became — famous for what they did, including The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev, Mr Fish the shirtmaker, the model Celia Hammond and film director Roman Polanski.
No one could get in, really, except us. It was a big party all the time, and a bit rough. I got into a punch-up there once.
I remember Jean Shrimpton didn’t like dancing at the Ad Lib. She wasn’t any good at it, so she used to just sit there with her knitting. I had a joint with John Lennon there one night, and he said to me: ‘I guess I’ve made it. Here I am, on the roof of the Ad Lib, smoking a joint with David Bailey.’
He asked me: ‘How much do you work?’
And I said: ‘Eight days a week.’
I don’t know if the song came from that. I wasn’t particularly friends with John, but out of all The Beatles, he was the only one I liked.
I would also see Princess Margaret in the Ad Lib a lot, and I got on great with her. Snowdon used to get angry because she used to write me letters. She was a big fan of my photography and not of Snowdon’s — that made him angry, too.
I liked her wit. When she was introduced to Twiggy, Twiggy said: ‘My real name’s Miss Hornby but people call me Twiggy.’
And Princess Margaret said: ‘Oh, how unfortunate.’
Even now, I’d say that Jean and Kate Moss are the two best models I’ve ever worked with. You can’t take a bad picture of either of them. There are many more beautiful girls. But those two have this universal appeal.
In 1960, just a few months before I met Jean, I’d got married for the first time. I’d met Rosemary Bramble, a typist, at the Flamingo jazz club.
In the East End, when you first slept with a girl, you were expected to marry her. That expectation had never bothered me before, but when Rosemary said: ‘You’ve ruined my life — now we’ve got to get married,’ I said yes. I thought it was normal.
Well, I never took marriage that seriously — I’d seen what it was like between my mother and father, who barely spoke to each other. Maybe I got married to get away from the East End.
After our wedding, Rosemary and I rented a one-room flat at The Oval in South London, with no inside toilet, which I was sort of used to anyway.
But I didn’t get on that well with Rosemary. She was always hysterical — angry, jealous of other girls as well as of me. We weren’t together very long.
It took me three months to seduce Jean Shrimpton. I’m sure I got to the point straight away, but she was a convent girl and wasn’t happy that I was married.
Jean was barely 18, and living at her parents’ home. So when I started seeing her, we had nowhere to go. Jean’s father threatened to shoot me. He didn’t want his daughter with a married man. Because of me, he didn’t speak to her for a year: she could only go to see her mother on weekdays, when her father wasn’t there.
I don’t know where I first made love to Jean — it was on a common, anyway, I remember that.
Once, I ended up in the haystack at her parents’ house in the countryside. I’d gone to visit her and then realised it was too late to drive back to London.
Jean said I could sleep in the haystack that was by the house. Maybe she thought she could conceal me until her father went to work, but the pigs in the yard made a terrible noise and scared me. I went to get Jean, and the pigs with their piglets followed us. Then Jean’s father came charging out and shouted at me: ‘Get out! Clear off!’
From the moment I met Jean, I wanted to work only with her, but it wasn’t easy. I had to fight for her. There was a lot of ‘we can’t book her just because she’s your girlfriend’.
Out of the studio, Jean did look a little scruffy, and UK Vogue was very touchy about appearances. And about suggestions from me.
The editor was an awful woman called Ailsa Garland who thought I was an East End yob. If you had an accent like mine, you were judged immediately.
Jagger was always tight, but I loved him
Mick Jagger was about 18 and going out with Jean Shrimpton’s younger sister, Chrissie, when I met him.
Poor Mr Shrimpton — his two daughters were going out with ‘David Bailey makes love daily’ on one side and ‘Would you want your daughter to marry a Rolling Stone’ on the other. The Stones hadn’t been invented by then, although they soon were.
All four of us used to go to The Casserole on the King’s Road in Chelsea. I took Mick there after he’d said: ‘Dave, take me to a posh restaurant — I’ve never been to a posh restaurant.’
After the meal, I said: ‘Mick, you have to leave a tip.’
‘What f***ing for?’ he asked.
‘Well, you leave a tip in a posh restaurant,’ I said. ‘Give them ten bob.’
He put ten bob on the plate, but as he put on his jacket I noticed he’d whipped the money off the table and put it back in his pocket! Typical Mick; always mean with money. Still is.
Fashion was very staid then. Models wore gloves and pearls; they were supposed to look ‘ladylike’. And most fashion editors had terribly old-fashioned ideas and knew nothing about photography. They only cared about the dress.
One Vogue fashion editor told me ‘I want to see the shoes’, which didn’t often feature in my tightly cropped pictures.
I said: ‘Oh, you should have told me before. I haven’t got a shoes camera with me.’ She believed it because she didn’t know anything technical about photography.
Then came the trip to New York — in February 1962 — that changed everything. Getting a gig outside London was the only way Jean and I could be together.
Vogue was shooting a 14-page ‘Young Ideas’ story and Ailsa Garland, tired of me going on at her, finally said I could use Jean.
So we went to New York with Lady Rendlesham, the tough bitch in charge of the Young Ideas section. She didn’t like Jean, wasn’t sure she wanted to use her and I’m not sure she liked me very much.
At the St Regis hotel, we were put in the maids’ quarters at the top, which were fairly basic, and Lady Rendlesham had a suite. There was a telex for me from the managing director of Vogue, saying: ‘Please don’t wear your leather jacket and jeans in the St Regis hotel because you represent British Condé Nast.’
A year later, they were begging me to wear a leather jacket.
For the fashion shoot, Lady Rendlesham said: ‘We want something young.’ I didn’t know what she meant so I thought: ‘Well, I’ll put a teddy bear in every picture. Under Jean’s arm, something like that.’
I just did street pictures really. I photographed Jean on the pavement, in the traffic, at intersections next to flashing pedestrian signals, with passers-by. When we took pictures on Brooklyn Bridge, it was so cold my hand stuck to the camera and Jean fainted.
I’m the guy who made the Queen chuckle
Someone once said I was ‘the embodiment of ‘twinkly-eyed geezerdom made good’ .
I was rewarded for that twinkly insolence when I was made a Commander of the British Empire in 2001.
The British empire, of which I have many schoolboy romantic notions, needs a good politically incorrect commander, so I accepted.
I do like the Queen. I photographed her in 2014, and she’s smiling broadly in the picture, almost laughing
But as Prince Charles gave it to me, I said: ‘I’m not joining you lot — I’m infiltrating.’
I do like the Queen. I photographed her in 2014, and she’s smiling broadly in the picture, almost laughing.
I said to her: ‘If I say anything out of order, I want you to know I’ve got Truth Tourette’s.’
That’s what made her laugh. She said something about me being cheeky.
She was wearing emeralds and I asked her if they were real — as a joke. I think she wasn’t sure if I was joking or not. I liked working with her — she was all right.
The first time we met, I was at one of those f***ing things when they ask you to the Palace — I never know what for — and you stand around and sometimes they put a little red badge on you, which means she’s going to talk to you.
She asked me: ‘You were in the forces, weren’t you?’
I said: ‘Well, I was in National Service, so I suppose you could say that.’
I told her that I’d tried to get out of it, and she was quite shocked by that.
I had terrible fights with Lady Rendlesham, made her cry three times, but in the end, eight of those pages were of Jean. People raved about the pictures, and we were launched. Jean became a top model overnight, and after that we worked together every day.
She had fantastic legs, so I used to pull her skirt up for photographs. Vogue used to airbrush it down again because they had one letter from a reader in Scotland saying Jean was disgusting for showing her legs. Just one of my many skirmishes — or skirtishes — with Vogue.
A key picture of Jean at that time was of her dressed very casually, almost shabbily, in a raincoat. Suddenly a model seemed like someone you could touch, or even take to bed.
But Jean wasn’t the kind of woman my mother, Glad, was used to. I remember she came to stay with her once in the East End.
Glad got very uptight because Jean asked where the other bedsheet was. You only had a sheet on the bottom back then. Glad said: ‘Who does she think she is?’ I’d take Jean to Chan’s Chinese restaurant in East Ham High Street, a place where a lot of villains used to go. Each time, I would tell her: ‘Don’t f***ing talk,’ because she was too posh. ‘If you speak like that, you’ll get us into a punch-up.’
We ended up renting a grotty basement flat in Primrose Hill, which was a slum then. That’s where we were tracked down by private investigators working for my wife, Rosemary, to prove we were adulterers.
The bloke sat outside in a car. I felt sorry for him. I remember I’d go and give him a coffee, the poor sod — he’d been out there all night. So it was all over the Daily Mail: top model cited in divorce.
By then I wasn’t only photographing Jean. There was another model I used in London in 1962 called Jane Holzer, a blonde American socialite who later did quite a few films for Andy Warhol.
She was great, Jane. It wasn’t love, and she was married. Just a fun romantic affair.
Jean left me in 1964. She told me it was over and flew to New York.
It was especially painful because I’d see her every day — her picture was everywhere in a famous Van Heusen ad, wearing a loose shirt, with the slogan: ‘It looks even better on a man.’
I didn’t just lose my lover, I also lost my muse. But I’d been getting fed up, too: Jean was becoming ambitious and I was jealous.
She’d become more important than me in a way. Advertisers didn’t worry about the photographer; they worried about getting Jean Shrimpton.
Six months after Jean left me, we began, out of necessity, to work together again.
I was still in love with her. Or maybe in love with the image of her.
By that time, she’d taken up with the actor Terence Stamp, whose career was taking off with the film Billy Budd.
I’d got to know him when he was living with Michael Caine in a house behind Buckingham Palace. And I’d been so nice to him: I used to give him a lift and Jean would sit on his lap in the Morgan.
That’s the only time it’s happened to me, allowing a woman to break my f***ing heart. It wasn’t going to happen again. It made me much tougher.
When I divorced Deneuve she said we could be lovers
It was at the Ad Lib club in Soho, one of the Sixties’ coolest venues, where I first saw Catherine Deneuve.
The director Roman Polanski had just finished making his first English-speaking picture, Repulsion, with her. He said: ‘That woman’s made for you.’
‘No, she’s not,’ I said. ‘She’s too short, and a bit on the fat side for me as well.’
Polanski wanted me to photograph her for Playboy, to promote Repulsion. Catherine didn’t like the idea, and neither did I. But Roman is very persistent. In the end he persuaded her. I did them as a favour to Polanski, really.
It was at the Ad Lib club in Soho, one of the Sixties’ coolest venues, where I first saw Catherine Deneuve
I went to Paris and saw Catherine again. It was a long photographic session in her flat. Of all the French people I’ve ever known, she was one of the few who had a sense of humour.
Catherine and I had an instant attraction. At some point during this session — at the end of it, I think — the earth moved.
It was my friend and fellow photographer Brian Duffy who started the idea of us getting married.
I’ve never been a fan of marriage — it’s stupid, I think.
If you don’t like someone, leave ’em. Seems pointless. I learned that from growing up in the East End: all those people stuck with each other and hating each other. All right for the rich, but if you’re poor you couldn’t get divorced.
But Duffy and I had a bet. ‘I bet she wouldn’t marry you,’ he said. I said: ‘I bet she will.’ ‘I bet you ten bob she wouldn’t,’ he said.
‘All right, I’ll ask her.’
So we drove, me and Duffy, to Normandy to the set where Catherine was filming.
She came running across this cornfield when she saw us, and I said: ‘Will you marry me?’ And she said yes.
We were married within a couple of weeks in August 1965. It was all quick, it was all fun.
We got married in the register office at King’s Cross. I always got married there. Got married there three times; should have got a discount.
I remember some journalist said to me: ‘Do you get upset when you see someone caressing your wife’s t*ts?’
I replied: ‘Not really, because they’re doubles.’
She never showed her t*ts; I think it was that middle-class thing.
I used to argue with Catherine about it. ‘One day,’ I said, ‘actresses will do this and it will be normal.’ ‘No, it will never happen,’ she said.
She was a bit square, a bit French in that way. They’re supposed to be the great lovers, but they’re not. I think the men worried more about how women tied their scarves.
In June 1967, in the South of France, Catherine’s sister Françoise was killed when her car collided with a pylon and caught fire. The rescuers came too late to save her.
Catherine changed a lot after that. We were together for three years, but after Françoise died, I rarely saw her. We were friends, but lived in different countries.
We got a divorce in 1972. She rang me up and told me it was done. She said: ‘Now we can be lovers.’
I remember one thing Catherine said that was uncanny: she once saw a picture of Penelope Tree in American Vogue, before I’d ever met Penelope, and said to me: ‘You’re going to go off with this girl.’
- Adapted by Corinna Honan from Look Again: The Autobiography, by David Bailey, published by Macmillan on October 29 at £20 © David Bailey 2020. To order a copy for £14 (offer valid till October 31. 2020), visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193. Free UK delivery on orders over £15.