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, Bourdin met Man Ray in Paris and became his protégé. Surrealism was consequently ever-present in his work and he was forever drawing fresh inspiration from figures as disparate as Alfred Hitchcock and Lewis Caroll. He cleverly fused a very European aesthetic with the post-war pop culture of the American West Coast.
Bourdin realised early on 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 in 1991, Bourdin has been hailed as one of the greatest photographers of his field. His first-ever retrospective exhibition was held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London in 2003, which then toured to the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, and the Jeu de Paume in Paris. More recent retrospectives have been held at the likes of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, and Somerset House in London.
1928 Born Guy Louis Banarès on 2 December at 7 rue Popincourt, Paris
1929 Adopted by Maurice Desire Bourdin who, with his mother Marguerite Legay, raises Guy.
1948 Undertakes military service in the French air force and receives his first photographic training. He is stationed in Dakar, Senegal.
1950 First exhibition of drawings and paintings at Galerie, Rue de la Bourgogne, Paris.
1952 Exhibition of photographs at Galerie 29, 29 rue de Seine, Paris. The catalogue includes an introduction by Man Ray.
1953 Exhibition of photographs under the pseudonym Edwin Hallan at Galerie Huit, 8 rue St. Julien-le-Pauvre, Paris.
1954 Exhibition of drawings at Galerie de Beaune, 5 rue de Beaune, Paris.
Contributes photographs to the C.S. Association UK touring exhibitions, in 1954-55 and 1955-57, both shown at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London.
1955 First fashion photographs are published in French Vogue in February issue.
Exhibition of drawings at Galerie des Amis des Arts, 26 cours Mirabeau, Paris.
Exhibition of paintings at Galerie Charpentier, Paris.
1956 Exhibition of drawings at Galerie de Seine, 24 rue de Seine, Paris.
1957 Exhibition of paintings and drawings at the Peter Deitsch Gallery, 51 East 73rd Street, New York.
Contributes photographs to group exhibition entitled Vogue at the international Photography Biennale, Venice.
1967 Samuel, Guy Bourdin's only child, is born.
First Charles Jourdan shoes advertising campaign.
First editorial fashion photographs for Harper's Bazaar and Photo.
1969 Contributes photographs to a group exhibition l'insolite et la mode at Galerie Delpire, 13 rue de l'Abbaye, Paris.
1971 Solange Louise Gèze dies.
1972 First editorial fashion photographs for Italian Vogue.
1973 Advertising campaign for MAFIA advertising agency, Paris.
1974 First editorial fashion photographs for British Vogue.
1975 Advertising campaign for Issey Miyake.
1976 Lingerie catalogue Sighs and Whispers for Bloomingdale's department store, New York.
Advertising campaigns including for Baila, by Gianfranco Ferré and Complice & Callaghan, by Gianni Versace, and Loewe.
1977 First editorial fashion photographs for Vogue Hommes and 20 Ans.
Contributes photographs to touring exhibition entitled The History of Fashion Photography shown at USA venues including the International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House, Rochester, New York, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
1978 Advertising campaign for Claude Montana.
Contributes photographs to the art fair Photokina 78, Cologne.
Calenders for Issey Miyake and Yashica.
1980 Calendar for Pentax.
1981 Final advertising campaign for Charles Jourdan.
First editorial fashion photographs for Linea italiana.
1982 Advertising campaigns for Gianfranco Ferré, Lancetti, and Roland Pierre.
Contributes photographs to group exhibition entitled Color as Form at the international Museum of Photography, George Eastman House, New York.
1985 Advertising campaign for Emanuel Ungaro.
Refuses the Grand Prix National de la Photographie awarded by the French Ministry of Culture.
1986 Contributes photographs to the art fair Photokina 86, Cologne.
1987 Terminates his contract with French Vogue.
First editorial fashion photographs for The Best.
Advertising campaign for Révillon, and Chanel.
1988 Receives the Infinity Award (for his 1987 Chanel advertising campaign) from the ICP, New York, presented by Annie Leibovitz.
Contributes photographs to the Triennale International de la Photographie, Paris.
1991 Dies in Paris on 29 March, aged 62.