The Image Maker - Guy Bourdin March 20 2015


I managed to catch the Image Maker show last week of Parisien photography bigwig Guy Bourdin at Somerset House, one of my favourite locations, due to its proximity to the wonderful Delauney Counter, where we managed to squeeze in a deliciously extravagant cake & hot chocolate for lunch. Gluten free readers of course. 

Familiar with Bourdin's colourful lipsticked 80s fashion images I was really looking forward to viewing this collection of work spanning 40 years. However it was not at all as I remembered; but surprisingly (to me) surrealist & not what I was expecting. In fact the first room, featured the early famous mannequin leg story shot in the UK, which didn't make me feel rosy at all.


The show included a range of medium: film, polaroids & sketchbooks showing meticulous planning and craftsmanship behind the images. I sometimes found his mise en scene a little obvious but perhaps that was because he has so influenced contemporary photographers of today that this style is now familiar. 


His editorial and advertising imagery is credited with changing fashion photography; putting the product in second place to the image. This is particularly evident in his work with Charles Jourdan.

I recognised some of these campaigns. They were sexy & quirky, new poses with barely seeable shoes which made me crave close ups. I didn't realise then that these images were such a game changer. He was loved by Jourdan for whom he worked for a dozen years & judging by his 30 years working with Vogue he certainly was one of the best and most influential fashion photographers of his time. When I realised that he was Man Ray's protege all that surrealism began to fall into place.


I liked his visual vocabulary and found it amusing, glamorous, sexy and challenging. Some were bland or perhaps i just didn't like the pretend dead models or the open leg shots but the final black and white series won me over. Provocative at the time no doubt, less so to me now, but looking back at these images it's clear what an influential figure he has been.

And I thought I was just an old fashioned Helmut Newton girl.