Guy Bourdin | Image Maker – Somerset House

I went to check out the ‘Guy Bourdin | Image Maker’ exhibit at the Somerset House, as usual when I’m taken by surprise when my favs are being exhibited, the shock factor tends to make me stall my visit?!

Strange behaviour… :/ Anyhow, Bourdin is another of my surrealist loves, and some of the projects I’m working at the moment include him regularly and at times almost singularly as an influence.
Whether its about composition, or the use of complimentary and pop colours to catch the viewers eye, or the way he would use the female body to tell a story in fashion that was shockingly real; many of a sexual nature but also in a way that allowed you to fill in the missing parts, creating or inserting a personalised subject to the story.

Back in college as an armature fashion & art student where I first learnt about his work, I was particularly drawn to his fashion editorial work, and the more obvious and exposed commercial work he did forVogue and with shoe client Charles Jourdan in the 50’s through to the 80’s.

French Vogue, March (1972)

Guy Bourdin, Charles Jourdan advertisement (1975)

Charles Jourdan campaign (1978)

Guy Bourdin, Charles Jourdan advertisement (1979)

Guy Bourdin, Roland Pierre advertisement (1983)

This was the UK’s largest ever exhibition of his, featuring over 100 works and never been seen material from his estate, from 1955 to 1987,  mapping out a blue print of Bourdin’s highly regarded 40-year career from “Man Ray’s protégé to photography revolutionary in his own right” .

The show included some his earliest pieces of work and original pages from his portfolio, showcasing the drafting of ideas behind the Art & Creative Direction of his final editorials.

There were walls and walls of contact sheets, Polaroid test shots, double-page spread layouts with markings for corrections, edits and adaptations. It was so fascinating because  we tend to think of editing in a very digital way, but most of this work was done pre Adobe Suite… Just proves how ahead of his time he was, and how much of an influence he has had on contemporary Fashion Editorial, styling and direction.

The exhibition, curated by Alistair O’Neil with Shelly Verthime also featured a selection of paintings, working drawings, sketches and notebooks, never before seen in the UK, accompanied by a series fashion film from the campaign la-  ‘Walking Legs’ commissioned by Charles Jourdan in 1979 .

Bourdin’s work was indeed, intriguing, provocative, mysterious,  and honest in it’s casual exposure of unspoken latent human desire. He contextualised fashion by using it’s products to create stories that appealed to our human nature in a quiet, seductively staged narrative . The want , the need and the uncontrollable unquenched hunger for things unattainable.

Such an icon, such a visionary.


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