Guy Bourdin, born in Paris in 1928, was one of the most radical and influential fashion photographers of the twentieth century. His unique blend of surreal and erotic imagery filled the pages of international magazines such as French Vogue during the 1970s and became synonymous with Charles Jourdan’s revolutionary advertising campaigns. Rejecting the typical ‘product’ shot in favour of staging unsettling mise en scene that hint at consumption, sex and desire, his photographs sought to shock and ignite the viewer’s curiosity.
In 1950 he met Man Ray in Paris and became his protégé. Consequently surrealism was ever-present in his work and he was forever drawing fresh inspiration from figures as disparate as Alfred Hitchcock and Lewis Carol. He cleverly fused a very European aesthetic with the post-war Pop culture of the west coast, USA.
Bourdin realised that it is not fashion itself that seduces people but the fantasy it represents. Psychodrama and the theatre of the absurd pervade his work; a true master of the storyboard, Bourdin rigorously planned his compositions for fashion shoots to suit the format of the printed page. Conceived long before the advent of digital retouching, he went to tremendous lengths to produce highly stylised images, often pushing his models to their limits to achieve his desired vision.
Since his death, Bourdin has been hailed as one of the greatest photographers of his field, and his first retrospective exhibition was held at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London in 2003, then touring to the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, and the Jeu de Paume in Paris. Recent retrospectives have been held at the likes of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, and Somerset House in London.