Visual Monday: Guy Bourdin

The artist I want to talk about today was one of the most innovative fashion photographers. Guy Bourdin (1928-1991) was born in Paris and his career as a fashion photographer spans over three decades. His work is related to Vogue magazine, where he became famous together with Helmut Newton.

Bourdin is said to be the first fashion photographer to shift the emphasis from the product to the image. Instead of taking a photograph of  a shoe, he created a visual story – the shoes may be part of the image, but they are not at all the focus.

What is so special about Bourdin is the way he pushed the boundaries of fashion photography. His photos are provocative, mysterious and quite shocking (especially for the 1950s). They are part of a complex and intricate narrative. In other words, it seems that the photo is a result of previous events, and the story continues to unfold after the captured moment. In this sense, the photographs have a certain suspense.

The photographs let our imagination to suggest possible contexts of the snapshots. In any case, it is going to be one which includes violence, sex and the woman as an object. You should know that Guy Bourdin was also famous for the way he treated his models, always pushing them to their physical and psychological limits. A certain interest to death and domination is obvious from the pictures but is also mentioned as part of his biography – Bourdin is said to have treated his girlfriends and wives were badly, to the point where the women committed suicide.

Nevertheless, I find the images very powerful. The use of bright colours, plus the “slap on the face” poses leave a strong impression on me. These are the types of photos I know I won’t be forgetting to soon.

More information about Guy Bourdin can be found here, here and on guybourdin.org

All images © The Estate of Guy Bourdin

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