In 1974 David Bailey visited New Guinea. Naturally he took photographs of the people he encountered but the images never went much further than being catalogued and filed away.
Fast forward 37 years and gallerist Daniel Blau is visiting Bailey’s studio. Documentation of lost colonies and people has become increasingly popular in recent years (as the recent sale of Edward Curtis’s The North American Indian collection for $1.4m proves) so you can imagine Blau's surprise and delight on finding a box of Polaroids by Bailey languishing within the photographer's archive.
“When visiting an artist as versatile as Bailey, one should always expect the unexpected," he says with classic understatement. "Despite this, it was a great surprise to discover a box of Polaroids taken in Papua New Guinea in 1974, fascinating for their subject matter as well as for their artistic merit.”
Bailey has mixed memories of the experience. “In ’74 I photographed the cannibals in New Guinea,” he says. “They treated me OK but they didn’t make you feel relaxed. I managed to escape unscathed though, I’m pretty good at that!”
Long interested in Oceanic Art Blau quickly arranged an exhibition of the work. It's on show now at Daniel Blau Gallery in Hoxton Square until November 3. If you can't make it down to the show be sure to check out our own David Bailey book. It's called Look and includes many of his most iconic portraits of the Rolling Stones, Andy Warhol, Catherine Deneuve and Michael Caine.
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