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Posted on April 10 2017

Photo World June/July 1977

"I've taken thousands of pictures of Marie, but the most important one, the only official one, wasn't taken by me.  And it is awful!  It's her passport photograph.  One can supposedly learn everything about Marie from this document: that she is 25 years old, that she has black hair and brown eyes, that she is 5-foot-9, that her name is Marie Lee Helvin, and that we were married a year and a half ago.  The impression left by those few line and that photograph is a strange one.  It reminds me of a photograph of a man about 40 years old, exuding vigor, good health, and humor.  The caption read that he had raped and murdered more than 20 women.  Then the photo suddenly took another dimension.  It's the same for Marie.  She hasn't murdered or violated 20 men, but I know some of her secrets, hopes, loves, and doubts.  When I look at her passport photo, I have the impression that it is someone else, some remote foreigner."  

In his latest book, "Mixed Moments," Bailey has published 30 personal photographs of Marie in order to correct (or forget) that "official" photograph, which he finds so intolerable.  "I am not a writer, and what I am incapable of expressing in imposing volumes of text I can say through photography.  I don't need to speak about her, this would, at any rate, be uncomfortable for her, for me, and for the reader.  We had the luck to meet and to work together, and photography is as important to her as it is to me.  The only interesting thing in the life of a man is a woman, even if the two of them are as different and opposite as a tree and a lake.  But a man can talk to a woman; it's their only common ground.  I love photographing Marie.  It is, I think, the thing that I have done the best this past year.  I never say "my wife"-I hate that term.  It's comparable to saying "my car" or "my camera," referring to what is mine.  A person belongs to no one but himself.  But let's stop speaking about her.  Words are of no use.  It is only the images that count."


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