David is an artist and photographer. During his long career he has known and photographed many of the most influential gay people from the last 30 years.
In 2013 he was voted 16th on the Independent’s Pink List of the top 100 most influential gay people in Britain today for creating the Pink Jack, a symbol of modern Britain and gay pride.
The National Portrait Gallery recently acquired a portrait of David in recognition of this and his photographic work.
I first thought about become a photographer after discovering the work of Diane Arbus and Robert Mappelthorpe in the London studio of artist Brian Clarke, where I was living temporarily (freeloading really! Thank you Brian x) It was about 1980. David Bailey was a frequent visitor to the studio and hearing the stories of his legend, I thought a photographer would be a cool thing to be….I was also far too lazy to be a painter.
I started photographing every interesting gay person I could and anyone else that caught my imagination but being young and idealistic, I only took a picture if it ‘appeared’. I would never set it up. I took my camera everywhere.
London at that time, especially the art world and gay scene were dominated by New York and San Francisco. The gay scene took it’s lead from America in everything, Judy Garland, clones – lumberjack shirts, Levi 501’s, moustaches, broadway musicals … the rainbow flag…
This was about to change as a generation of creative and original kids found each other on the gay club scene of London making their own identity, as far removed from the US clone as possible. The nucleus started at Blitz then played out at Hell, Club for Heroes, The Wag, Kinky Gerlinky…Heaven and drew in artists, fashion designers, film makers, dancers, budding pop stars…everyone was going to be famous, inspired by the true greats of the arts, we wanted to be like our heroes.
This creative scene of the early eighties was the beginning of London taking the crown from New York and America and becoming the leading force in the Arts, of which it still is today.
I’ve many black & white photographs from this period, they are often grainy and moody as I used only available light but it now seems to reflect the period which was Thatchers Britain and ‘hard times’. There is a documentary quality to the pictures as they were often taken in the habitat of the sitter, at home, work or in recovery…
I now work a lot more in colour, my younger self would never have allowed this.
Recently, I started wondering if discovering photography so arbitrarily in Brian’s studio made me a bit fraudulent. How did I know I was a genuine artist if it wasn’t something I’d felt destined to be from an early age? Wandering around an exhibition of photographer Guy Bourdin’s work earlier this year it dawned on me.. ..as a schoolboy, I had French Vogue on order from the newsagent every month so I could look at the fashion in the photographs of Bourdin. I was crazy into fashion and always thought my love of Guy Bourdin’s pictures was for the fashion but of course it wasn’t, as there aren’t really any clothes in his photographs, only a concept and strong design with the clothes making up elements of the design. I was into the photography! So I probably was destined to be a photographer. I still have those Vogues.