Shrimpton and Bailey
As The Sunday Times Magazine celebrates its bittersweet 50th anniversary, Iconic Photos look back at its first cover.
No duo exemplified the symbiotic relationship between the photographer and the subject than David Bailey and Jean Shrimpton. While much had been made of Bailey’s enchanting images which transformed the young ingenue, Shrimpton also made her photographer an icon and a fixture of the swinging 60s.
He photographed her for The Sunday Times Magazine’s first cover, in February 1962 (above), and nearly lost his contract with Vogue for his stubborn insistence on using Jean repeatedly. Their close relationship soon turned into a torrid affair, and Bailey, 23, left his wife for the supermodel when she was just 18. For her, it was no easy choice either: her parents strongly disproved, and Shrimpton frequently requested the media to omit the fact that she had been living together with Bailey.
After a three-year tryst, the couple parted ways to reach their respective apogees of fame, which would soon prove to be transient and fickle. For her, it was having paid the then-extravagant sum of $67 per hour, and inadvertently contributing to the miniskirt’s birth. In 1965, Shrimpton was hired to present prizes for the Melbourne Cup in Australia and her dressmaker, Colin Rolfe, was given insufficient fabric. The result was four dresses which were all cut just above the knee. The miniskirt was born, to the shock of conservative Australia at the time.
But for all her successes, she was deeply disenchanted with the fashion world, and had always loathed her nickname “the Shrimp”. She retired into a relative obscurity at the height of her fame — like many of her model colleagues of that unassuming and quieter era — claiming that never saw a penny from Bailey, who she said “made a lot of money out of me” and paid her nothing in return.
Bailey, who once famously said of his covergirl: “She was magic. In a way she was the cheapest model in the world – you only needed to shoot half a roll of film and then you had it,” denies this, of course.
In their many shoots, they broke the rigid mould of womanhood — legs together, gloves on, mouths shut — and created a new ideal: young, fresh, natural, girlish rather than aristocratic and womanly. The 1962 iconoclastic fashion shoot where Shrimpton and Bailey fell in love was made into a film, We’ll Take Manhattan.
If you are in London, go and see The Sunday Times Magazine 50th Anniversary Exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery. I would skip the movie if I were you though. @aalholmes.