Master Of Controversy: Guy Bourdin

In the February of 1955, a small scandal broke as Vogue Paris printed a pictorial aptly entitled, Chapeaux- Choc (Hat Shocker). In this pictorial, Claude Saint- Cyr’s latest collection was shot in the backdrop of dead cow heads and slabs of meat, as the model smiled at the camera. This was the debut of Guy Bourdin and the start of his controversial career as a fashion photographer.

After many personal exhibitions Guy launched his career as a fashion photographer in the pages of Vogue Paris in 1955. He went on to have a relationship with the magazine for 30 years. Bourdin’s contribution to Vogue became more significant under Francine Crescent, who joined the magazine in 1957 and who was also amongst the biggest supporters of Guy. He also went on to be introduced and later shoot advertisement campaigns for Roland Jourdan- a famous shoe designer, due to Francine. Roland hired Guy to shoot for this 1967 collection, their partnership continued for fifteen years, in which time Guy was given full artistic freedom.

Over the years, Guy continued to scandalize and awe his audiences through imagery that used a uniquely dark sense of humor entwined with sex and violence. Inspired by surrealism, Guy created moments in his images that drew the viewer in with their intensity and psychedelic nature. He created drama, mystery and mystique in his images using the model not as the center of but as an object that is a mere part of his narrative.

Guy Bourdin, in his career never published a book, or displayed his fashion photography in exhibitions or sold his work, which contributed to him never becoming a huge name his period, unlike his peers- Helmut Newton and Richard Avedon. But Guy’s work pushed boundaries of fashion photography, and captured attention of audiences of fashion magazines through means of theatrical story telling in his photographs.

Well known for challenging conventional norms of his time through his controversial approach to fashion, Guy is therefore one of the most definitive fashion photographers of the modern age with his style influencing photographers and editorials to date.

We at Exclusively celebrate the photographer’s work by listing our favorite images taken by Guy over the span of his career.


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