Guy Bourdin (2 December 1928, Paris – 29 March 1991, Paris), was a French artist and fashion photographer known for his provocative images. From 1955, Bourdin worked mostly with Vogue as well as other publications including Harper's Bazaar. He shot ad campaigns for Chanel, Charles Jourdan, Pentax and Bloomingdale's. His work is collected by important institutions including Tate in London, MoMA, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Getty Museum. The first retrospective exhibition of his work was held at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London in 2003, and then toured the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, and the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris. The Tate is permanently exhibiting a part of its collection (one of the largest) with works made between 1950 and 1955. He is considered as one of the best known photographers of fashion and advertising of the second half of the 20th century. He set the stage for a new kind of fashion photography.
"While conventional fashion images make beauty and clothing their central elements, Bourdin’s photographs offer a radical alternative."
Life and career
Bourdin was born 2 December 1928 in Paris, France. His parents separated when he was an infant and he was sent to live with his paternal grandparents who owned a house in Normandy. His grandparents were also owners of a restaurant in Paris called Brasserie Bourdin. When his father, who was only 18 at the time of his birth, remarried, Bourdin was again under his care. Apparently Bourdin only saw his mother once when she arrived at the Brasserie to present him with a gift. Thereafter, his only communication with his mother took place in the side-by-side phone booths of the Brasserie where his participation would be ensured by a locked door. At the age of eighteen Bourdin embarked on a cycling tour in Provence during which he met art-dealer Lucien Henry. Bourdin passed six months living at Henry's house where he concentrated on painting and drawing until it was time for his mandatory military service.
Bourdin was first introduced to photography during his service in the Air Force. Stationed in Dakar (1948–49), Bourdin received his initial photographic training, working as an aerial photographer. When he returned to Paris after his service, he supported himself with a number of menial jobs, including as a salesman of camera lenses and also continued to paint, draw and take pictures. During this time he exhibited some of his drawings and in 1950 sought out the mentorship of American expatriate and prodigious Surrealist Man Ray. Bourdin was turned away from Man Ray's door six times by his wife and on the seventh finally succeeding in gaining the artist's company when Man Ray himself answered the door and invited Bourdin in. Bourdin had indeed succeeded in gaining the confidence of Man Ray, who later wrote the catalogue for Bourdin's first exhibition in 1952 after accepting him as a protégé.
Bourdin made his first exhibition of drawings and paintings at Galerie, Rue de la Bourgogne, Paris. His first photographic exhibition was in 1953. He exhibited under the pseudonym "Edwin Hallan" in his early career. His first fashion shots were published in the February 1955 issue of Vogue Paris. As a contemporary of Helmut Newton, who also worked extensively for Vogue, Bourdin helped establish what contemporary photography is today. Newton observed, "Between him and me the magazine became pretty irresistible in many ways and we complemented each other. If he had been alone or I had been alone it wouldn't have worked." He continued to work for the magazine until 1987.
An editor of Vogue magazine introduced Bourdin to shoe designer Charles Jourdan, who became his patron, and Bourdin shot Jourdan's ad campaigns between 1967 and 1981. His quirky anthropomorphic compositions, intricate mise en scene ads were recognised as distinctly Bourdin-esque and were always eagerly anticipated by the media.
In 1985, Bourdin turned down the Grand Prix National de la Photographie, awarded by the French Ministry of Culture, but his name is retained on the list of award winners. He died of cancer in 1991. According to Manolo Blahnik, Bourdin’s creative legacy is so immense that his shoes will never be filled by another.
Bourdin's photographs are often richly sensual but also rely heavily on provocation and ability to shock. Additionally integrating erotic, surreal, sinister components, Bourdin configured a whole new visual vocabulary with which to associate the goods of haute-couture. The narratives were strange and mysterious, often plainly exhibiting violence and graphic sexuality. Evident through astute reading of his compositional and thematic presentation, Bourdin profited from the influence of a diverse collection of contemporaries: first and foremost, his mentor Man Ray, but also the photographer Edward Weston, surrealist painters Magritte and Balthus, and Spanish surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel.
Bourdin's work is held in the following public collections:
- Tate, London, (27 works acquired in 2014)
- Victoria and Albert Museum, London
- Museum of Modern Art, New York
- International Center of Photography, New York City
- Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
- Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Houston, Texas
- Musée de l'Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland
- Guy Bourdin. HNA, 2003. ISBN 978-0810966055.
- Exhibit A: Guy Bourdin. London: Jonathan Cape, 2003. ISBN 978-0224062046.
- Guy Bourdin. London: Phaidon, 2006. ISBN 978-0714843032.
- A Message For You. Göttingen: Steidl Dangin, 2006. ISBN 3-86521-197-6.
- Guy Bourdin (Stern Fotographie Portfolio). Hamburg: Stern, 2010. ISBN 978-3652000024. Bilingual edition.
- Guy Bourdin: Polaroids. Xavier Barral, 2010. ISBN 978-2915173567.
- Guy Bourdin: In Between. Göttingen: Steidl, 2010. ISBN 978-3869300337.
- A Message For You. Göttingen: Steidl Dangin, 2013. ISBN 978-3869305516.
- Untouched. Göttingen: Steidl, 2017. ISBN 978-3869309347.
- A Message For You. Göttingen: Steidl, 2017. ISBN 978-3-86930-551-6 .
- Guy Bourdin: The Portraits. Studio des Acacias: Mazarine, 2017. ISBN 979-1097151003.
- 1988: Infinity Award, International Center of Photography, New York, for his 1987 Chanel advertising campaign.
- 1950 First exhibition of drawings and paintings at Galerie, Rue de Bourgogne, Paris.
- 1952 Exhibition of photographs at Galerie 29, The catalogue includes an introduction by Man Ray. Paris.
- 1953 Exhibition of photographs under the pseudonym "Edwin Hallan" at Galerie Huit, Paris.
- 1954 Exhibition of drawings at Galerie de Beaune, Paris.
- 1955 Exhibition of drawings at Galerie des Amis des Arts, Paris.
- 1955 Exhibition of paintings at Galerie Charpentier, Paris.
- 1956 Exhibition of drawings at Galerie de Seine, Paris.
- 1957 Exhibition of paintings and drawings at the Peter Deitsch Gallery, New York, NY.
- 1961 Salon International du Portrait Photographie
- 2003–2013 "The Retrospective", Victoria and Albert Museum, London; National Gallery Victoria, Melbourne, 2004; Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris, 2004; Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam (Foam), Amsterdam, 2004; Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany, 2005; National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China, 2005; Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, China, 2006; Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo, 2006; Daimaru Umeda Museum, Osaka, Japan, 2006; KunstHausWien, Vienna, Austria, 2008; FotoMuseum, Antwerp, Belgium, 2008; Moscow House of Photography, Moscow, 2009; Museu Brasileiro de Escultura (MuBE), São Paulo, Brazil, 2009; Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Porto Alegre, Brazil 2011; Deichtorhallen, Hamburg, Germany, 2013.
- 2006–2014 "A Message For You", Phillips, New York, NY, 2006; Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy, 2006; HSBC Foundation, Paris, 2006; Hollywood Centre, Hong Kong, 2007; Today Art Museum, Beijing, 2007; Gallery Carla Sozzani, Milan, Italy, 2009; Photography Festival, Cannes, France, 2009; Canal Isabel II, Madrid, 2010; Louise Alexander Gallery, Porto Cervo, Italy, 2014.
- 2009 "Ses films", Le Bon Marché, Paris, 2009; 10 Corso Como, Seoul, South Korea.
- 2010 "In Between", French Consulate, New York, NY.
- 2013 "Guy Bourdin: Archives", Louise Alexander Gallery, Porto Cervo, Italy.
- 2014 "Guy Bourdin: Image Maker", Somerset House, London.
- 2015 "Guy Bourdin: Mise en abyme", Paris Photo, Louise Alexander Gallery, Paris, France.
- 2015 "Guy Bourdin: Avant Garde", Fotografiska, Stockholm.
- 2016 "Guy Bourdin: The Portraits", Studio des Acacias and Louise Alexander Gallery, Paris.
- 1954 C.S. Association UK touring exhibitions, in 1954–1955 and 1955–1957, both shown at the Whitechapel Gallery, London.
- 1957 "Vogue" at the International Photography Venice Biennale in Venice, Italy.
- 1960 MoMA, Photographs for Collectors
- 1969 "L'insolite et la mode" at Galerie Delpire, Paris.
- 1977 Touring exhibition called "The History of Fashion Photography" shown at U.S. venues including the International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA.
- 1978 photokina 1978, Cologne, Germany.
- 1981 Exhibition, Rencontres de la photographie, Arles, France.
- 1982 "Color as Form" at the International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House, New York, NY.
- 1986 photokina 1986, Cologne, Germany.
- 1988 Triennale International de la Photographie, Paris.
- 1999 Festival d’Hyeres
- 2008 Rencontres d'Arles
- 2008 Nature Morte, Vogue Paris
- 2009 Pump House Gallery, London Shake it/History of Polaroids
- 2009 Musee de l’Elysee, “Controverses, photographies à histoires“, Paris
- 2009 7th Festival Cannes, Guy Bourdin, Photo Moda
- 2011 Annenberg Foundation, Los Angeles Beauty Culture
- 2011 Museum Bourdelle/Paris, “Madame Gres Sculptor“
- 2011 Rencontres d'Arles Manequin – Le corps de la mode
- 2012 Vogue China, Beijing Fashion History - 120 Years
- 2012 All Words Destroy; Part Three: Guy Bourdin, curated by Bjarne Melgaard
- 2013 La Cité de la Mode et du Design, Paris ”Mannequin Le corps de la mode”
- 2013 Tate Liverpool, Glam! The Performance of Style
- 2013 Villa Noailles
- 2014 Musée Galliera, “Papier Glacé”. Paris
- 2015 Rencontres d'Arles
- 2016 National Portrait Gallery, “100 Years of Condé Nast“
- 2016 Hayward Gallery, ”In a dream you saw a way to survive and you were full of joy”, travelling exhibition curated by Elizabeth Price
- 2016 Tate, Collection display "Texture and Photography"