The Photography Legends come back on the blog this week with Guy Bourdin, although he was not celebrated and publicly famous as Richard Avedon or Helmut Newton who were his contemporaries, Bourdin left a considerable legacy.

Bourdin was a pioneer of Fashion Photography bringing some graphic style imagery and the interplay between desire and death to the discipline. He is regarded as one of the most famous visual artists of all time.

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Guy Bourdin & The Art of Storytelling

Guy Bourdin is a French Photography, born in 1928 in Paris.

He learned photography during his military service in 1948 in Dakar, Senegal, as an army photographer assistant. When he came back in Paris, he was totally obsessed with photography and started to develop his own style. With his first artworks, he discovered his predilection themes: death, nudity, and narrative.



Surrealism inspired a lot Guy Bourdin, and that is why Bourdin was really close to Man Ray, a surrealist painter. He turned his back on his formalist training and adopted a rigorous understanding of surrealist principles. Man Ray taught him to use graphic imagery and exaggerated lighting in his photography.

But it is in 1955 when Bourdin meets the redactor in chief of Vogue Paris, introduced by Man Ray, that he really started to do fashion Photography by making his first series for the magazine. The collaboration with Vogue Magazine will last 30 years.



Bourdin had a very tormented life, full of dramas with problems with his mother that left his father when he was a child, a spouse that made an overdose while watching TV or a girlfriend that committed suicide... All those dramas inspired Bourdin in his art very profoundly.

Bourdin was very famous in the 70's where he started to do advertising for big luxury brands like Charles Jourdan, Dior, Issey Miyake but the 80's were quite hard for him. The narrative style was less fashionable, and fashion magazines loved more glamour visuals. His contract with Vogue stopped, and he started to have some money issues. He died in 1991 from cancer.


*Read on: Photography Legends: Paolo Roversi and Photography Legends: Abbas

Bourdin, a vast legacy

If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then Bourdin must be considered one of the most important photographers of the 20th century with the likes of La Chapelle, Juergen Teller, Mondino, Hert & Marcus, Terry Richardson and many others. His presence extends far beyond the world of film and art.



He continues to inspire a lot of artists, and you can find many photos influenced by his style. For instance, Madonna's clip Hollywood (2003), directed by Mondino, was directly inspired by Bourdin to the point that his son, Samuel Bourdin, sued the director.

The style of Bourdin is highly visible with techniques and themes that he first pioneered, flagrantly utilizing his trademark motifs of vivid colors, sexual imagery, and inferred violence.



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