“The work of Guy Bourdin was about life. He knew beforehand that sex and violence would soon become key factors of our society” Francine Crescent , French Vogue Editor in Chief , 1964
The Story of Guy Bourdin
Settings: Paris 1928/1991
Leading Actor: Guy Bourdin had a turbulent life. He was abandoned by his mother and raised by an unloving father in war-torn France. The early deaths of both Bourdin’s first wife and a subsequent girlfriend are matters of public record, as are tax difficulties that saddled his estate with debts.
He received his first photographic training while undertaking military service in Senegal in 1948–9. His photographs were first shown in Paris in 1952, and he began working for French Vogue soon after, in 1954. At French Vogue, Bourdin demanded – and was allowed – unique editorial control. Amazingly he extended this to his principal client in advertising, the shoe company Charles Jourdan, who first commissioned him in the 1960s. Throughout his career he shot campaigns for some of the most relevant names in the fashion world, the likes of Ungaro, Ferre’ and Issey Miyake.
Plot: Inspired by Surrealism, and specifically the work of Man Ray, with whom he struck up a relationship, Bourdin rejected the descriptive roles of photography; he broke with tradition constantly questioning taboos and codes of the society he was living in. Bourdin’s approach to campaigns reflected a distinct change for advertising in this period. He rejected the ‘product shot’ in favour of atmospheric, often surreal tableaux and suggestions of narrative. He made radical changes both in the style and the meaning of commercial imagery. His fashion shoots are mysterious, hypnotic and surreal, exposing the true and unnerving nature of desire.Of particular interest the body of work Bourdin did For Charles Jourdan from 1964 until 1981: it shows that, within the context of fashion, it is rarely the product that compels us. His surreal and stylised images were instrumental in defining the look of the era, and remain highly influential today.
All Photos ©Guy Bourdin
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