The names on the walls outside the Taschen Gallery on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles are freshly painted in bold, rosy shades of pink. "The Rolling Stones," they declare, and: "David Bailey." Just as bold are the photographs inside, including many by Bailey, documenting the 50-year rise of an essential band.
In the 1960s, Bailey was a rare photographer whose fame rivaled that of his subjects. His life as a young artist in Swinging London inspired Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 film "Blow-Up." He was among the first and most important photographers to shoot the Stones, helping establish them as icons of music, fashion, sexuality and danger.
"Kids having a good time really," Bailey says cheerfully of his pictures, which fill the main room of the Taschen Gallery's debut exhibition. "It was great because everyone was willing to take a chance – because we had nothing to lose."
Now 76, Bailey knew Mick Jagger from the Stones' earliest days in London. He was engaged to British supermodel Jean Shrimpton then, and Jagger was dating her sister, Chrissie.
"I got on great with him – he liked Willie Dixon and all those great blues singers," says Bailey, gray-haired and relaxed, in town for the gallery opening Dec. 13. "I never understood the Beatles because I thought they were just a boy band – until they did the 'White Album' and things like that."
The exhibition celebrates "The Rolling Stones," a new oversized book of pictures, published by Taschen Books. Bailey is the guest of honor, on a rare visit to Los Angeles. As he talks, the Stones' lascivious lips-and-tongue logo is being carefully painted onto a display case.
The new gallery is showing nearly 100 pictures from the book, by Bailey and others, among them Anton Corbijn, Terry Richardson, Albert Watson and Guy Webster. There are still copies available of the $5,000 "sumo-sized" edition of the book for sale and $10,000 editions with special photo prints; the $20,000 editions with prints from Bailey or Anton Corbijn are sold out.
The pictures follow the Stones from blues-obsessed miscreants to grizzled rockers entering their '70s.