david bailey – hitler killed the duck at scream

23 October 2011 § Leave a comment

I have always thought that the notoriously irreverent and enjoyably grumpy photographer David Bailey has always been slightly underestimated. Not that of course he goes unrecognised but that perhaps he is often dismissed as simply a fashion photographer or celebrity snapper. Actually his work has often been groundbreaking with for example his use of excessive contrast and very tight cropping.

I recently visited his studio where, despite being well in to his seventies, he had been up since 6.30 am working in the darkroom (he still does much of his own printing). This despite the fact that by now he should of course be able to hang up his lenses for good and have a very comfortable living from his back catalogue. Still working every day – “otherwise I’d get bored stiff” – his latest work has not actually involved photography but painting.

Paint is of course a departure from his usual work but, no doubt encouraged by his good mate Damien Hirst, he fancied trying his hand at something different. And different it certainly is. The exhibition is called Hitler killed the Duck – a title derived from the bombing of his local cinema when he was a child. The works in the show are split between expressionistic – if one could call it that – canvases that variously feature Mickey Mouse, warplanes, Donald Duck and Hitler with daubed graffiti such as 1942 WAS A BAD YEAR, WANTED or WOT, and inspired by these childhood experiences. The remainder take one of his iconic photographs as a starting point for some overpainting.

The former do not really work and some might be unkind and say that perhaps he should not have bothered – but hey, its David Bailey, if he wants to try it why not? In any case am sure he would say something like ‘f*** ’em – who cares?’ As for the photographic-based pieces they are actually work very well, perhaps due to the sthrength of the original images.

In Red Warhol, Jack Nicholson and Noel Gallagher the original photographs featuring the thoughtful, bad and mad respectively are tightly cropped with the black and white or sepia images still visible through or inside the painted background.

It is not great art – but here is one of Britains iconic photographers having some fun and what the the hell, why not take a look.

David Bailey Hitler Killed the Duck is on at Scream until the 12 November 2011

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