Guy Bourdin (1928-1991) is a French artist. This autodidact was born and lived in Paris, where he practiced his art from the 1950s to the end of the 1980s. For more than thirty years, he pushed the boundaries of fashion photography and his work still remains a source of inspiration and fascination. He is considered as one of the best-photographers of fashion and advertising of the second half of the 20th century.
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. A protégé of the iconic Surrealist artist Man Ray, Bourdin began exhibiting his drawings and photographs in the early 1950s, landing his first fashion shoot in 1955 in Vogue Paris. Once he began work as a fashion photographer, Bourdin eschewed exhibitions and monographs, feeling that his images functioned exclusively in magazines. However, his works are 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
Guy Bourdin set the stage for a new kind of fashion photography. Described in TIME Magazine as “tiptoeing to the edge of pornography but ending up at art,” Bourdin is best known for his iconoclastic photographs of fragmented women’s bodies, considered alternately objectifying and empowering. This distinct style emerged in the 1970s, as his shocking, sensual, and sometimes unsettling images revolutionized commercial and editorial photography. Renowned for his suggestive staging, meticulous sets, and surrealist aesthetics, he broke with the conventions of commercial photography through relentless perfectionism, scathing humor, and a real artistic vision. Unclassifiable, unpredictable, versatile, and an almost sadistic taskmaster and perfectionist, Guy Bourdin remains an enigma.