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How to capture modern day India, caught in a dilemma as it hesitates between tradition and modernity?
Barber Shop, Delhi 2009. ©David Bailey.

LONDON.- David Bailey’s latest two books for Steidl, Bailey’s Delhi Dilemma, tell many stories of the Indian capital. As India’s economy grows with a rising middle class, Bailey explores the areas away from westernised shopping malls, huge internet company HQs and housing estates. In Bailey’s Delhi the new world keeps trying to eradicate the old, but long held traditions will not go without a fight.

The books show the British and global impact on the city and its culture, but also how a strong Indian identity has endured. The mini histories include a museum of natural history, faded theme parks, transvestites, sex workers, hand painted posters, the world of the sadhus, Reeta Devi and a Bollywood prop-laden photostudio. The books show elements of Indian life that are unexpected and also very beautiful. Bold portraits sit alongside images of markets and city life. The books will be on sale from later this year and will feature colour and black and white images.

The photographs in Bailey’s Delhi Dilemma were taken in 2009. Bailey was keen to see the city before the Commonwealth Games transformed it, potentially stripping the place of its identity. This is the first in a series of books on India and it captures a world away from the Lutyens residences and the mushrooming shopping malls. The books have an introduction by renowned author, William Dalrymple, who lives just outside Delhi and they also contain popular watercolours from the 1900s that Bailey has collected.

David Bailey said: “The first time I was captivated by India was when I was taken to see the 1948 Olympics football match where some of the Indian players wore no boots. I found the players extraordinary and my love affair with the country and its people began.

“I always start shooting as soon as I get off the plane, once you become acclimatised to a place you stop seeing the differences. These pictures are all about people or the products of people. India must be one of the most photographed places on earth because it naturally lends itself to imagery through the colour and the landscape.”

Bailey first went to India in the 1960s where he photographed Mother Theresa among others. He has returned a dozen times since and hopes to return to photograph in Nagaland later this year.

Bailey’s Delhi Dilemma will be published by Steidl this autumn and available in all good bookshops and online via

Born in 1938 in Leytonstone, David Bailey rose to fame in the early 60s. His photos for British Vogue of models including Jean Shrimpton and Penelope Tree made both he and his subjects household names. He has photographed stars from the Beatles to Damien Hirst and continues to photograph for titles including Vogue, Vanity Fair and iD Magazine. His style has become iconic: “I've always tried to do pictures that don't date. I always go for simplicity.”

Although perhaps best known for his portraiture, Bailey's accolades are many, with his genres including still life, painting and sculpture. He also works in other media and has written and produced numerous books and films.

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