Bourdin was born in Paris in 1928 and sadly abandoned by his mother the year after. He was brought up by his father's parents and received his first photography training as a cadet in the French Air Force. He was an established photographer by the time his first fashion images were published in French Vogue in 1955. He went onto have a long and mutually fruitful relationship with the magazine which lasted for many years.
What do I find so mesmerising about his work? Take for example his habit of portraying women who appear dead in his images. It makes you think, it tells a story. It says yes these are beautiful images, the women are wearing beautiful clothes, jewellery and make-up but why do they appear to be dead? What is the story behind this image? It is this curiosity to know that makes you return to his photos over and over again; that and of course the glamour which can be found in abundance throughout his work. It also made me question what caused him to create the work that he did.
It could maybe be traced back to his relationship with women. It is thought that he never recovered from being abandoned by his mother and any women that he had a relationship with in his adult life were eventually trapped in both the relationship (mentally) and in his apartment (literally), not allowed to communicate with anyone in the outside world. Two of his lovers committed suicide, with one of them found hanging from the ceiling by his 13 year old son.
He was never great at keeping a portfolio of his work thereby showing a disregard for fame and fortune. He was well known for not letting his pictures be used without context of a magazine, he refused exhibitions and once turned down a handsome some of money as a reward from the french government. He was never interested in getting books published of his work. The first published book of his work came out after his death. Manolo Blahnik goes on to claim Bourdin to be so unique and brilliant that according to him no one can fill his shoes. I fear Blahnik maybe right; it maybe unlikely that there will be another photographer who has the same ability to shock and inspire quite the same way as Guy Bourdin.
I believe that he was so driven by his own demons and appetite for sexual perversion that it resulted in his being a photographic genius. Whether that is true I guess I shall never find out. Bourdin once claimed that his photographs were 'just accidents', I so wish more of us were able to create 'accidents' like his.