Guy Bourdin

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Guy Bourdin
Born Guy Louis Banares
(1928-12-02)2 December 1928
Paris, France
Died 29 March 1991(1991-03-29) (aged 62)
Paris, France
Nationality French
Occupation Photographer, artist
Movement Surrealism, Fashion photography
Children Samuel Bourdin

Guy Bourdin (2 December 1928, Paris – 29 March 1991, Paris), born Guy Louis Banarès, was a French fashion photographer known for his provocative fashion images. "At the heart of Guy Bourdin’s fashion photographs is a confrontation with the very nature of commercial image making. While conventional fashion images make beauty and clothing their central elements, Bourdin’s photographs offer a radical alternative."[1]

Life and career[edit]

Guy Bourdin was born 2 December 1928 in Paris, France. He grew up in an age of war and experienced challenges represented by the philosophies of surrealism. During his military service in Dakar (1948–49), Bourdin received his first photography training as a cadet in the French Air Force. He was fascinated and assimilated Surrealism in its broader senses. From the mid-1950s, Bourdin experimented and refined his distinct vision, produced fashion images, photographed and filmed his observations of the world.

In 1950 he returned to Paris, where he met Man Ray, and became his 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. A contemporary of Helmut Newton, they both worked extensively for Vogue and greatly influenced in different ways what would become contemporary photography.[2] "Between him and me the magazine became pretty irresistable 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 greatly recognised and always greatly 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 was one of the best known photographers of fashion and advertising of the second half of the 20th century. He shared Helmut Newton's taste for controversy and stylization, but Bourdin's formal daring and the narrative power of his images exceeded the bounds of conventional advertising photography. Shattering expectations and questioning boundaries, he set the stage for a new kind of fashion photography. Bourdin worked for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, and shot ad campaigns for Chanel, Issey Miyake, Emanuel Ungaro, Gianni Versace, Loewe, Pentax and Bloomingdale's.

Since his death, Bourdin has been hailed as one of the greatest fashion photographers of all time. His first retrospective exhibition was held at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London in 2003, and then toured the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, and the Jeu de Paume in Paris.


Bourdin was the first photographer to create a complex narrative, then snatch a moment—sensual, provocative, shocking, exotic, surrealistic, sometimes sinister—and simply associate it with a fashion item. The narratives were strange and mysterious, sometimes full of violence, sexuality, and surrealism. Bourdin was influenced by his mentor Man Ray, photographer Edward Weston, the surrealist painters Magritte and Balthus, and filmmaker Luis Buñuel. Although less well known to the public than Newton (also working for Vogue), Bourdin might have been more influential on the younger generations of fashion photographers.

Because Bourdin's models "often appeared dead or injured", some critics have accused him of objectifying women. His photographs were described as "highly controlled" and "famous for a mysterious sense of danger and sex, of the fearsome but desirable, of the taboo and the surreal".[3]


Bourdin was not a natural self-promoter, and did not collect his work or make any attempt to preserve them; in fact he refused several offers of exhibitions, rejected ideas for books, and wanted his work destroyed after his death (but since he did not keep so much of his work for himself, most of it was saved). His photography only appeared in magazines because he "shunned" books, exhibits, and awards.[3] The first major book devoted to his work was Exhibit A, released ten years after his death.

Madonna's 2003 music video for "Hollywood" was greatly influenced by the photography of Bourdin, so much so that a lawsuit was brought against her by Bourdin's son for copyright infringement.[4]

Dreamgirls: The photographs of Guy Bourdin, a documentary, was screened for the BBC in 1991.

Contemporary photographers such as Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, Jean Baptiste Mondino, Nick Knight and David LaChapelle have admitted to being great admirers of his work.[5]


Selected exhibitions[edit]

  • 1950 First exhibition of drawings and paintings at Galerie, Rue de Bourgogne, Paris, France.
  • 1952 Exhibition of photographs at Galerie 29, The catalogue includes an introduction by Man Ray. 29 rue de Seine, Paris. France.
  • 1953 Exhibition of photographs under the pseudonym "Edwin Hallan" at Galerie Huit, 8 rue St. Julien-le-Pauvre, Paris, France.
  • 1954 Exhibition of drawings at Galerie de Beaune, 5 rue de Beaune, Paris, France.
  • 1954 Contributes photographs to the C.S. Association UK touring exhibitions, in 1954–55 and 1955–57, both shown at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, England.
  • 1955 Exhibition of drawings at Galerie des Amis des Arts, 26 cours Mirabeau, Paris, France.
  • 1955 Exhibition of paintings at Galerie Charpentier, Paris, France.
  • 1956 Exhibition of drawings at Galerie de Seine, 24 rue de Seine, Paris, France.
  • 1957 Exhibition of paintings and drawings at the Peter Deitsch Gallery, 51 East 73rd Street, New York, New York.
  • 1957 Contributes photographs to group exhibition entitled Vogue at the International Photography Venice Biennale in Venice, Italy.
  • 1969 Contributes photographs to a group exhibition "L'insolite et la mode" at Galerie Delpire, 13 rue de l'Abbaye, Paris, France.
  • 1977 Contributes photographs to touring exhibition called "The History of Fashion Photography" shown at U.S. venues including the International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House, Rochester, New York, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, US.
  • 1978 Contributes photographs to the art fair Photokina 78, Cologne, Germany.
  • 1981 Exhibition, Rencontres de la photographie, Arles, France.
  • 1982 Contributes photographs to group exhibition entitled "Color as Form" at the International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House, New York, New York.
  • 1986 Contributes photographs to the art fair Photokina 86, Cologne, Germany.
  • 1988 Contributes photographs to the Triennale International de la Photographie, Paris, France.
  • 2003 "The Retrospective", Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
  • 2004 "The Retrospective", National Gallery Victoria, Melbourne.
  • 2004 "The Retrospective", Jeu de Paume, Paris, France.
  • 2004 "The Retrospective", Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam (Foam), Amsterdam, Netherlands.
  • 2005 "The Retrospective", Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany.
  • 2005 "The Retrospective", National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China.
  • 2006 "The Retrospective", Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, China.
  • 2006 "The Retrospective", Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo, Japan.
  • 2006 "The Retrospective", Daimaru Umeda Museum, Osaka, Japan
  • 2006 "A Message For You", Phillips, New York, New York.
  • 2006 "A Message For You", Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy.
  • 2006 "A Message For You", HSBC Foundation, Paris, France.
  • 2007 "A Message For You", Hollywood Centre, Hong Kong, China.
  • 2008 "A Message For You", Today Art Museum, Beijing, China.
  • 2008 "The Retrospective", KunstHausWien, Vienna, Austria.
  • 2008 "The Retrospective", FotoMuseum, Antwerp, Belgium.
  • 2009 "The Retrospective", Moscow House of Photography, Moscow, Russia.
  • 2009 "The Retrospective", Museu Brasileiro de Escultura (MuBE), São Paulo, Brazil.
  • 2009 "A Message For You", Gallery Carla Sozzani, Milan, Italy.
  • 2009 "A Message For You", Photography Festival, Cannes, France.
  • 2009 "Ses films", Le Bon Marché, Paris, France.
  • 2010 "A Message For You", Canal Isabel II, Madrid, Spain.
  • 2010 "Ses films", 10 Corso Como, Seoul, South Korea.
  • 2010 "In Between", French Consulate, New York, New York.
  • 2011 "The Retrospective", Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Porto Alegre, Brazil.
  • 2013 "Guy Bourdin Retrospektive", Deichtorhallen, Hamburg, Germany.
  • 2013 "Guy Bourdin: Archives", Louise Alexander Gallery, Porto Cervo, Italy.
  • 2014 "Guy Bourdin: Image Maker", Somerset House, London, United Kingdom.
  • 2014 "Guy Bourdin: A Message for You - Selection of works from gallery collection", Louise Alexander Gallery, Porto Cervo, Italy.



  1. ^ "Victoria and Albert Museum: Photographs by Guy Bourdin". 
  2. ^ "Dreamgirls: The photographs of Guy Bourdin". BBC News. 
  3. ^ a b Rothman, Lily (2 April 2012). "Guy Bourdin (1928–1991)". Time. 
  4. ^ "Madonna Accused Of Picture Piracy". The Smoking Gun. 30 September 2003. 
  5. ^ "Now Hanging Guy Bourdin", New York Times Magazine, 8 May 2009.

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