Photo: Guy Bourdin Estate, 2003
LONDON • Victoria and Albert Museum • Ongoing
|Bourdin's high-profile years, in the 1970s, saw his images featured on the pages of top fashion magazines. Already in his mid forties by this time, his editorial and advertising photography broke with the conventions of fashion imagery in radical ways. His photographs of carefully staged narratives plunge the viewer into a fantasy world of glamour, pleasure, danger and suspense. Bourdin made it clear, as no other photographer before him had done, that we are seduced by the fashion image rather than the product the image promotes. |
From the mid 1950s, Bourdin experimented and refined his distinct vision. At the same time as he produced his famous fashion images, he compulsively photographed and filmed his observations of the world in which he moved. The V&A's exhibition brings together both these published and private aspects of his work for the first time.
The first room of the exhibition shows a selection of Bourdin's editorial and advertising photographs from the peak of his career in the mid-to-late 1970s. Bourdin's rare combination of talents, including his technical brilliance, and his impressive capability to stage precisely a dramatic scene, are revealed. They are filled with unresolved hints and allusions (a partially opened door, reflections, shadows, abstracted bodies) to the powerful narratives that obsessed him. These images are shown as contemporary photographic prints by fashion and art's leading printer Pascal Dangin.
Bourdin's cinefilms, made on the sets of fashion shoots, are on view alongside these images and offer another perspective on what he searched for visually and emotionally in the area of fashion photography.
The second room of the exhibition offers a surprising view of Bourdin's work. Within this room hundreds of his unpublished private images - polaroids, early black and white photographs, sketches, notes and slides - are assembled together. All the images shown here are devoid of human figures and of fashion. Together they reveal Guy Bourdin's visual language and the motifs that recur throughout his work.
Guy Bourdin was born in 1928 and spent much of his youth living in post-war Paris. An assiduous observer of culture, he showed precocious artistic talent and fierce ambition. His innovative fashion photographs first appeared in French Vogue in 1954 and he continued to work mainly for the magazine for the next 30 years. His editorial fashion stories and advertising campaigns were of such daring and ingenuity that their impact on visual culture was almost instantaneous. His images have continued to be a source of creativity for many renowned contemporary photographers, stylists, art directors and artists.
A book entitled Guy Bourdin will be published by V&A publications, to coincide with this exhibition. This book is the first thorough investigation of Guy Bourdin's compelling visions and includes in-depth essays by Laurence BenaÏm, Rosetta Brooks, Charlotte Cotton, Philippe Garner, and Shelly Verthime.
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