centrepiece; A model wife

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Whatever angle you're coming from, Catherine Bailey (right) comes out of it rather well. Which isn't bad going when you consider the angles hubby David has lined up for her in his new book and exhibition of photographs, The Lady is a Tramp, now showing at Hamiltons Gallery. But then, if you're going to be posing nude, stretched over a rock, baring your body in full- blown pregnancy and revealing yourself in the messy throes of childbirth, it helps if you have the full model credentials - endless legs, perfect bone structure and the face of an angel.

But then all this is part and parcel, it seems, of being a wife of David Bailey. Catherine is his fourth, following in the footsteps of actress Catherine Deneuve and model Marie Helvin, and fulfilling the role admirably. Here she is as Bailey would have us see her - in the nude, modelling fashion and make-up, pregnant, giving birth, bringing up her children - his all round incarnation of perfect womanhood. "Look, but don't touch," he might be saying. "She's all mine - aren't I lucky?"

The book and exhibition are being sold as "a love story, about the photographer who has transformed the way we see women today, showing us one woman [his wife] in all her infinite variety".

Also pictured here is Catherine as lesbian lover - smooching with a blonde crop-haired woman, both in dog collars. But are we really shocked? Hardly. Haven't we seen it all before? - mostly on the covers of Vanity Fair: Demi Moore posing nude in the last stages of pregnancy; Cindy Crawford and kd lang playing out a lesbian courtship. In any case Catherine insists: "I know exactly what I'm doing. I am always in control."

Slick, glossy and exquisitely constructed, David Bailey's professional approach is, as ever, a joy to behold. "So what's the difference between a Bailey photograph and any old photograph?" Fay Weldon asks Catherine Bailey in the introduction to the book. "I don't know," she answers. "He's just better than the others." Quite so.

Jane Richards

Hamiltons Gallery, 13 Carlos Place, W1 (0171-499 9493) to 1 Jul

'The Lady is a Tramp: Portraits of Catherine Bailey', by David Bailey and Fay Weldon (Thames & Hudson, pounds 39.95)