A notorious fashion photographer from France, Guy Bourdin lived was born on 2nd December 1928. He was born in Paris and the following year his mother abandoned him. Désiré Bourdin then adopted him and raised him up. While serving in the military in Dakar for a year from 1948, he was given a training of photography in the Air Force of France. He went back to Paris in 1950 where he encountered with Man Ray and became his trainee.
The first exhibition of Guy Bourdin’s paintings and drawing was held in Rue de la Bourgogne at Galerie. In 1953, he agreed to do his first photography exhibition under the pen name Edwin Hallan. In 1955, his first fashion photos were featured in Paris Vogue in February and he continued working for the magazine till 1987. Vogue’s editor introduced Charles Jourdan to Bourdin and then onwards he did photography for Jourdan’s shoe design campaigns from 1967 until 1981. After four years, he refused to accept the award Grand Prix National de la Photographie by the Ministry of Culture, France. Despite this, his name was preserved on the winners list.
In the second half of the 1900s, Bourdin was among the most recognized fashion and commercial photographers. His style of photography exceeded the boundaries of traditional advertising – it was daring and had narrative supremacy. He worked for Harper’s Bazaar as well and shot campaigns for Issey Miyake, Gianni Versace, Pentax, Chanel, Bloomingdale’s, Loewe and Emanuel Ungaro.
Bourdin’s photography was sensational, exotic, sinister, shocking, provocative, sensual, surrealistic and simply out of the box. His influences included Edward Weston, Luis Buñuel, Balthus, Magritte and Man Ray. Guy Bourdin has been a great inspiration for young photographers working in the fashion industry.
As far as his personal life is concerned, he wasn’t known for good reasons. There were loopholes in his life and many suspicions about his wife’s suicide and his treatment of his models. Apart from this, his photography was acknowledged worldwide.
Bourdin was not the kind of person who would cherish his work, in fact he wanted that after his death all his work should be destroyed, although that did not happen. When he was alive, he often refused exhibitions but his work was still displayed in several exhibitions before and after his death. Moreover, the publishing of books was not his cup of tea. He was not natural at promoting his work.
In 1991, a BBC documentary Dreamgirls: The photographs of Guy Bourdin was programmed on the channel. The first book on his work, titled Exhibit A, was published a decade after his death. More books were also released in the 21st century, such as A Message For you by Steidl Dangin, 2006; Guy Bourdin by HNA Books, 2003; Guy Bourdin: In Between by Steidl, 2010; GuyBourdin: Polaroids Editions by Xavier Barral, 2010; and etc. In 2003, Madonna‘s Hollywood was influenced by Bourdin’s photography. Unfortunately, the inspiration was to such a great extent that his son filed a lawsuit against the singer for copyright violation.
The latest exhibitions of Bourdin’s work have been held at the French Consulate in New York City, 2010; Museu de Arte Contemporânea in Brazil, 2011; and Deichtorhallen in Germany, 2013. Apart from this, many shows have been conducted in order to display his work. He died on 29th March 1991.