Ahead of the Guy Bourdin exhibition at Somerset House opening this week, we take a look at 7 of his most iconic images.
Guy Bourdin, Pentax Calendar, 1980.
A some-time protégé of the great surrealist Man Ray, Guy Bourdin’s overtly sexual and artfully violent fashion images demand they be viewed as more than mere fodder for the glossy pages of a transient fashion mag. Bourdin entertains us with his compulsively staged photographs, shiny and plastic in all their pre-photo shop genius, and from this Thursday Somerset House will have on display the largest exhibition of his work in the UK to date. To celebrate what we’re sure will be a glorious (and scantily clad) feast for the eyes, we’ve chosen 7 of our favourite Bourdin images for you to visually wallow in.
This maverick spanner in the works of the great fashion machine was able to defy the spirit (or lack thereof) of commercial fashion imagery whilst working for the greats themselves: Charles Jourdan, Ungaro and Chanel to name a few. Granted, the hyper-saturated images of the ‘70s exalt indecency and scream objectification, with torso-less legs and exposed buttocks looking just as artificial as the synthetic surfaces they’re lying motionless upon; but for all that they embraced the aesthetic decadence of contemporary consumerism, they also dismantled it from the inside.
He confronted the very nature of the industry he was working in by making the central message of his photographs not the products they were advertising, but the complex narrative of his artistic vision instead. He blurred the boundaries between advertising, fashion and fine art photography. The pictures tell a story; strange, fetishistic snapshots in time that draw whoever looks at them into the frame. We sit sinisterly with the mannequins who look with apparent longing at the swimwear-clad models striding past the shop window. We climb into bed with the two women provocatively gorging themselves on semi-erect frankfurters (room for one more?)
Rude, amplified and glamorous, the unsettling complacency of his models only serves to heighten the viewer’s curiosity. Apparently a lot of the ‘misogynistic undertones’ have to do with that fact that his mother abandoned him at a young age, and he’s actually just psycho-analyzed himself all over the pages of Vogue. Puts our daddy-issues to shame really.
Guy Bourdin, Vogue France, 1977
Guy Bourdin, Vogue Paris, 1975
Guy Bourdin, Vogue France, 1976
Guy Bourdin, vogue, June 1986
Guy Bourdin, Vogue Paris, September 1981.
Words: Florence Trott.