Project: Swinging Sixties

Exercise: Jack Nicholson

Analyse Bailey’s portrait of Jack Nicholson.  Take a good look at the portrait first.  What mood does it convey?  Who is this person?  What was Bailey trying to do?  As before, analyse the various elements independently then think how they came together to create the meaning.


Jack Nicholson – David Bailey

Pose/gesture Square on to camera, smiling, eyebrows raised, eyes slightly narrowed, could break into maniacal grin anytime
Clothes Dark jacket, open-necked striped shirt
Props None
Lighting Harsh from the left side of subject
Background Plain and white, provides sharp contrast
Meaning Remember I was the madman in The Shining – I still could be

Nicholson’s iconic image is from ‘The Shining’ where he’s peering through the shower curtains with a maniacal grin on his face.  I think Bailey wanted to make a viewer stop and consider if that image of Nicholson is really just beneath the surface all the time.  The grin is perfectly OK, but the narrowing of the eyes and the lifted eyebrows give it a very sinister, evil aspect, coupled with the deep shadow on the right-hand-side of the face, the dark jacket and highly contrasting background it could just be, but it also really just shows Nicholson smiling for the camera, a duplex image.


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