Current Feature: Guy Bourdin
By Baylee Mckeel.
When Guy Bourdin was trying to establish himself as an artist, he was doing so as a painter. In 1950 he met the iconic surrealist photographer, Man Ray, and became his protégé. This chance meeting would forever change the course of his artistic career, launching Bourdin into his true calling. While his passion for painting persisted throughout his life and instilled in his images the inten- tionality of a brushstroke and saturated his work with bold color, it was through photography that Bourdin would inextricably shape visual culture. In the post war consumerist context, he merged his unique approach to photography, one created by a painter’s eye and forged through surrealist images, with a bourgeoning consumer culture. This seemingly odd medley produced advertise- ments that stunned, shocked, and enticed. Full of tension, and the un nished narrative, Bourdin brought an entire- ly new edge to fashion photography, continuing to do so well into his fties and early sixties.
Charged with psychological energy, his photographs play on the inner most desires for fantasy, sensuality, and allur- ing mystery. His bizarrely brilliant compositions changed commercial photography from selling prestige and status to one wrapped in narrative and fantasy. His photographs, meticulously planned, precisely staged, and awlessly ex- ecuted, quickly became synonymous with companies such as Charles Jourdan. It was thought by many that Bourdin never exhibited or published his work, remaining unknown outside of the fashion circle for most of his life, feeling that once his images breathed life through the pages of the magazine, they had ful lled their purpose. By publishing in a work perishable in nature, and misleadingly known for destroying or mutilating many of his negatives, the photog- rapher remained pure and elusive in his medium, adding even more intrigue to his enigmatic photographs.