David Bailey: Papua Polaroids

The Legendary Fashion Photographer Reveals Unseen Polaroids of Cannibal Tribes

Famed for pioneering fashion photography in the swinging Sixties and inspiring David Hemmings' rambunctious protagonist in Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up, David Bailey shares a long-lost series of portraits taken during a 1974 trip to Papua New Guinea. Having languished in an archive in his London studio for years, the shots were recently rediscovered by gallerist Daniel Blau, whose art space will host the David Bailey Papua Polaroids exhibition. “Bailey is certainly an artist in flux. But to ‘find’ the box of Polaroids from the 1970s adds a very special touch,” says Blau. “It's a bit like archaeology. You get to peek into the past, and into a strange world as well.” Exhibiting the faces of indigenous people from the deepest jungles of the country, the arresting images provide a close-up view of a civilization untouched by modernity and an exhilarating insight into Bailey’s reach as a photographer. Adds Blau: “Bailey is a hungry artist and inventor. It fits perfectly to see him exploring the dangerous wilderness armed with a Polaroid camera.” A reflection of Bailey’s skill and dexterity as a portraitist, the work highlights his ongoing interest in oceanic art, of which he has built up a strong collection over the years. Here the photographer sheds light on his trip to Papua.

What took you to Papua New Guinea? 
Curiosity.

How did the tribe respond to your photographing them? 
They thought the Polaroids were broken mirrors because the image never changed.

What fascinates you about oceanic art?
All forms of expression fascinate me. Whether it's oceanic, Renaissance, or Egyptian art.

If you had to eat someone who would it be? 
This doesn't apply to me, as I have been a vegetarian since I was 12 years old.

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Conversations (1)

  • SteveB
    Is it really necessary to call these people "cannibals"? And to equate the landscape where they live with "dangerous wilderness"? Are you really so oblivious or uncaring about the politics of representation?
    • Posted By SteveB
    • October 02, 2012 at 1:46PM
    • Share Comment:

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