Guy Bourdin is one of the best known and most prestigious photographers of advertisement and fashion in history.
Bourdin was born in Paris in 1928 and grew up with his grandparents in Normandy. When he was 18, he started to paint, and during the military, he worked as an aerial photographer in Dakar. Back in Paris, he continued to paint and shoot. At the age of 22, he managed to meet the American surrealist Man Ray who became his mentor and wrote the catalogue for the first exhibition of his protégé.
Bourdin first fashion photographs for Vogue Paris were published in 1955, and he continued to work for the fashion magazine until 1987. Bourdin also shot the campaigns for shoe designer Charles Jourdan from 1967 to 1981. Each campaign presented intricate compositions with dramatic and intense colour saturation, which were eagerly awaited by the press and the public. He also worked for brands such as Chanel, Issey Miyake and Ungaro.
His style was unconventional, sensual and often provocative. He broke with traditional descriptive photography and instead of merely portraying reality, he created strange compositions that were influenced by the work of his mentor, Man Ray, and surrealist painters Magritte and Balthus.
Bourdin liked to shock. His surreal and theatrical images told stories about mysterious crime scenes, violence and sex, which was, at that time, something unexpected and shocking in fashion magazines. He broke conventions of fashion and commercial photography, using cropped compositions that put the product in second place because he thought the image was more important than the merchandise; this was a tremendous change in the manner advertisement was made.
His oeuvres are part of the collection of several important museums such as the MoMA in New York, The Tate in London, The Getty Museum in Los Angeles, SFMOMA in San Francisco and the V&A among others. Guy Bourdin’s work established contemporary photography as we know it and still resonates today. The French photographer, who died in 1991, continues to influence today’s photographers and artists such as Tim Walker and Nick Night.