Legendary photographer David Bailey has vascular dementia

David Bailey, speaking at The Photography Show in 2016
(Image credit: Future)

David Bailey, one of the most legendary photographers of all time, has revealed that he has been living with vascular dementia for about three years.

Bailey shot to fame as a celebrity fashion and portrait photographer in the Sixties, and found mainstream recognition in the Seventies as the face of Olympus cameras in the UK, thanks to a series of popular television commercials. Sadly, however, he was diagnosed with dementia around the time he turned 80 years old. 

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"I've got vascular dementia," he told British outlet The Times. "I was diagnosed about three years ago." According to the British Heart Foundation, life expectancy is around five years after symptoms present. 

In typical fashion for the fiery figure, though, he dismissed the condition as a mere inconvenience – and even found a humorous upside, while also pointing out that it hasn't hindered his photography in any way.

"It's a fucking bore but it's just one of those things. In some ways it's good: I can see a film and forget it, then enjoy it again two years later. And it doesn't seem to affect my work at all."

Vascular dementia is caused by issues with the body supplying blood to the brain, often caused by strokes. After Alzheimer's Disease, it is the second most common type of dementia (indeed, the two conditions often coincide).  

It affects cognitive function, including mood, memory and behavior. Continued deterioration can in some cases result in death from conditions such as heart disease, stroke or infection.

Bailey has kept working despite his diagnosis, though. Last year he released a new book, Look Again, which was his first ever memoir. "This is the first biography I’ve ever done. Probably the last," he said at the time. "It’s taken me 83 years to get to this stage of my life, so it’s about time I committed myself."

In spite of his condition, his age and even the global pandemic, the iconic photographer has maintained his famously sharp sense of humor. "I only realized I was old a couple of years ago, and it came as a great shock," he told The Times. "Eighty-three. Fucking hell."

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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients like Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photo and lighting tutorials, as well as industry news, rumors and analysis for publications like Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and talks at The Photography Show. He also serves as a judge for the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.