This is a retrospective which has divided the critics. Potentially because of the variety of images which span a lifetime as well as the whole world. There is a stark contrast between his images of starving children in East Africa and such commercial and potentially too perfect pictures of superstars, such as Beyonce.

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The title of the show is Bailey's Stardust and one wonders at the arrogance of this whilst looking at the images of the starving in Ethiopia or the abject poverty in the End End in the 60's – there is no obvious stardust here.  However in his own words, Bailey doesn't want to be pigeon-holed as a fashion photographer and there is no question that each of his pictures contains something intangiable, something to talk about.

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Bailey hit the big time with his avant guard publication 'A box of Pin ups' in 1965, which was this increadibly simple way of working in Black and white and no background to let his subjects natural charisma shine through.

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He has gathered his images in sections, not according to time but in relevance. The room on 'Beauty' is breathtaking, and the stark simplicity of his 'Black and White icons' shows how he lets his subjects speak for themselves, through his brilliant use of lighting and ambience. In his own words 'a good photographer makes a picture rather than takes it.'

 

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Jonathan Jones of The Guardian says 'Bailey is inexhaustibly shallow.' Brainless glamourama.' He seems to be blinded by celebrety, insunating that the images are only interesting because of the subjects, however Alistair Sooke of the Telegraph is impressed, 'there is a classic quality to Bailey's aesthetic, which resists elaboration or embellishment. This allow him to concentrate on psychological exploration.' '

Bailey captured a young Mick Jagger unsure of himself, Damon Albarn emanating insecurity or a George Michael portrait from 1985, when the man was the biggest heart-throb in the world, where he's looking deeply conflicted and troubled. In these extraordinary shots, we see Bailey's talent in revealing what even the most experienced performers can try to hide.'

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This talent is what makes his travel pictures shine with the internal light of his subjects – from the black and white stills from the early 60's in the east end, scarred and grimed by war and poverty, to the stunning rooms filled with the images from Papua New Guinea, Australia and Delhi where he has tenderly captured ways of life which are dying out.

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Bailey's Stardust is 250 shots, personally selected and printed by Bailey, the exhibition offers an unmissable opportunity to experience the work of one of the world's greatest image-makers.  At the National Portrait Gallery until 1st June 2014

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