Richard Bailey discusses a picture with model Kirstie Penn during an advertising campaign shoot in 2008.Source: Supplied
ONLY hours before he died of cancer yesterday, aged 52, Richard Bailey, the world-famous Australian fashion photographer, was planning his next shoot.
“He was delirious,” his wife Gillian said. “The budget was $400 million, it was in Thailand, and the model was Paris Hilton, which is strange because she was one of the people he least admired.
“He asked me if I thought he was ready for it, and whether I understood the size of the shoot. It was his fantasy.”
Bailey was as unlike the stereotypical fashion photographer as he was unanimously admired and liked in the notoriously tough industry.
“He won all these awards, but he never went to events (to receive them),” Gillian said. “His agent Jo always went on his behalf. He was so humble that he never wanted all that attention. As much as he respected celebrities, he never went to fashion functions.”
Bailey started shooting for Vogue Australia at the age of 21, and remained a part of the Vogue team for the rest of his career. His last job was to shoot Jimmy Barnes in a hotel room for the singer’s forthcoming album.
Bailey moved to New York in 1985, where he stayed for 10 years. Initially a lifestyle and outdoor photographer, he slowly moved to more stylised fashion shoots, and went on to work with Sarah Murdoch, Emma Balfour, Danielle Pestova, Yasmin Gahuri, Claudia Schiffer, Helena Christensen, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Eric Bana, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Janet Jackson and Katie Holmes.
His campaign jobs included Gap, Victoria’s Secret, Bonds, Corona, Anne Klein, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Anne Taylor, Nautica, Covergirl and L’Oreal, and his magazine clients included GQ, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Glamour and Grazia.
But Australian fashion was his main focus. “He was right up there with the best,” said Vogue Australia editor-in-chief Kirstie Clements. “He worked internationally but his heart was in Australia. He’s part of the Vogue Australia family.
“He loved the magazine. He was a great champion of Australian models. This is a huge loss to Australian fashion.”
Clements said he was a particularly quiet and private man. “He wasn’t over the top, loud or egotistical,” she said. “You don’t need the histrionics if you’re a pro.”
Bailey was also a keen surfer, and a regular presence at Whale Beach, Sydney. Surfing buddy and two-times world champion Tom Carroll said Bailey’s style and personality could be seen in the way he surfed.
“He was just a creative mind, a pretty driven person, with an eye for aesthetics,” Carroll said. “He just seemed to have a really nice style. When I look at people surfing, I can see their character - it comes form the heart. He had a lovely style and approach to surfing. It was like a nice dance. He had a good knowledge of the wave, the way he surfed was lovely, and that played out in his life.”
Bailey is survived by his wife Gillian and children Jasper, 13, and Billie, 10.