SVEN SCHUMANN — Do you approach a self-portrait differently than a portrait of somebody else?
DAVID BAILEY — No. It’s all the same. I take the same picture I’ve always taken. I try to find something that’s already there. I don’t look for something new. Most people bend over, climb a tree, or build fucking palm trees in the background. You don’t need all that. The person is the thing that counts. All the palm trees are going to do is distract from the person. Everything you want to photograph is already there. You just have to see it.
SVEN SCHUMANN — Has the mobile phone killed the art of the self-portrait?
DAVID BAILEY — I didn’t even know what a “selfie” was for the longest time. I was with Bruce Weber, and we were both being interviewed, and this journalist said to us, “Do you do selfies?” And I thought, “Well, this is a bit outrageous for New York. I expect it in England, but I don’t expect someone to ask me if I masturbate in America!” [Laughs] I thought it was masturbation! When she explained to me what it was, I realized I was right in the first place. It is masturbation. No one’s interested in that except your girlfriend, your mother, and the police. At least they’re not wasting film…
CHLOË SEVIGNY — You know Martynka? She’s a freelance editor for Rizzoli. She approached me one day and said, “What do you think about doing a book with Rizzoli?” I have some friends who had done books with them, and I had just come back from a trip to Japan, where I had seen a book that someone had done about me, without my permission, without permission from any of the photographers or anything. It was like a Chloë style-book. It was mostly paparazzi pictures, like red carpet pictures, and it was a kind of silly, Japanesey fan-book. I thought, “Well, they’re benefiting from this, and maybe I should think about it.” Then also, I could reclaim my image again in the age of the Internet. If anyone Googles me … even the thought of that makes me shudder. I thought, “I can compile images that I like from over the years and present myself in the way that I would want to be seen.” And she said I could kind of do whatever I wanted, and so I said “yeah.” It’s quite small. It’s 8-by-10, $32. So it’s for the kids. I didn’t want some big Carine Roitfeld-like $200 coffee-table book of me. It already seemed so utterly narcissistic to make a book about yourself — to do some really expensive, huge thing seems really crazy.
GLENN O’BRIEN — Was there an overlap in the images from the Japanese book to yours?
CHLOË SEVIGNY — The Japanese book is mostly paparazzi, and I decided not to include any of those in my book. First of all, I don’t feel like they’re beautiful in the way that Ron Galella used to take paparazzi photos. There’s no beauty to the imagery. I liked some of my outfits, but I didn’t think they were pretty enough as images to put in the book. Also, I don’t want to condone the walking-down-the-street paparazzi because I find that so utterly aggravating. I used a couple from the Oscars or things like that. Like one my mom took of me on the red carpet. Mostly, it’s editorial stuff from over the years, and snapshots my friends took. So we had to go through a lot to edit it down, and it was a pretty exhausting process. The worst part was that I didn’t understand how much work it was going to be! I had to track down the photographer, what the date was, and what magazine it was. Trying to do that work initially myself meant Googling myself, like “Chloë with…” Formal work that I cannot subject myself to. Luckily, I had some help.
Read more in Purple Fashion magazine #23. Click here to buy