See David Bailey’s Shots of Decaying Camden

The photographer’s groundbreaking book, NW1, is republished for the first time in 34 years

WORDS Chris Gaynor

In the 1960s, David Bailey made his name shooting London’s biggest swingers. Two decades later, he trained his lens on the city itself, and documented his home boroughs of Camden and Primrose Hill, which were crumbling around him.

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Bailey realised that his surrounds were changing, left decrepit by austerity and neglect. In 1982, he took raw images of boarded up shops and empty car parks, forgotten cinemas and tumbledown Victorian architecture. The pictures, published in the book NW1, captured suburban decay.

In the 34 years since, the areas have undergone radical redevelopment, which inspired HENI to reissue Bailey’s street photography and, for the first time, exhibit the images.

Bailey’s NW1 offers a stark contrast to the area today and the book acts as a reminder of the development and gentrification that has swallowed almost every postcode in London. As brick turns to glass, neighbourhood shops to coffee chains, the book questions whether, in our race to renew, we’ve lost the city’s personality.

Before he turned to street shots, Bailey cut his teeth assisting fashion photographer, John French, then started work for British Vogue in 1960. His work was particularly focused around portraits of celebrities, musicians and influential characters of the 1960s London scene, shooting the likes of The Beatles, Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol and East London gangsters, the Kray twins.

Bailey was also responsible for helping to fuel the pop-culture of the time and the public paid attention to who he was shooting. His role as a leading figure of the celebrity scene inspired Michelangelo Antonioni to create the 1966 film, Blowup, focusing on the life of a London fashion photographer.

NW1 sold out on release and has long been out of print. This first reprint comes in a limited edition, hand-numbered set, signed by Bailey, and features an unseen photograph.

NW1 will be exhibited on Thursday 1 December at HENI Gallery, 6-10 Lexington Street, Soho, W1F 0LB