Guy Bourdin /   Guy Louis Bourdin

France 1928 - 1991


Guy Bourdin
Guy Louis Bourdin
February 12, 2017
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A true milestone of the fashion photography subgenre, Guy Bourdin was a French artist and a photographer known for his provocative and pioneering images. During a career that spanned over three decades, this author made a practice out of creating depictions of fragmented women’s bodies – images that were often described as shocking, sensual and unsettling. Nowadays, Bourdin is considered to be one of the best-known photographers of the fashion and advertising industries of the second half of the 20th century. With his work tiptoeing to the edge of pornography but ending up at art (TIME Mag)[1], Guy’s name quickly became virtually synonymous with fashion photography.

First Contacts With Photography

Guy Bourdin was born on the 2nd of December in the year of 1928, in Paris, The City of Light and the capital of France. His parents got divorced when he was still an infant, after which young Guy was sent to live with his paternal grandparents who owned a house in Normandy. When his father, who was mere eighteen years of age at the time of his son’s birth, remarried, Bourdin once again found himself under his dad’s care. By the artist’s own claim, he only saw his mother once when she arrived with a gift on one of his birthdays. However, the two stayed in touch via telephone and letter correspondence. At the age of eighteen, Bourdin began a cycling tour in Provence, a journey during which he met an art-dealer Lucien Henry. Soon, young Guy was heavily concentrated on painting and drawing, at least until it was time for his mandatory military service. It was during his service in the Air Force (1948 – 1949) that Bourdin was first introduced to photography. Stationed in Dakar, he received his initial training working as an aerial photographer[2]. When he returned to Paris, Bourdin supported himself by selling camera lenses and also continued to paint, draw and take pictures.

Taking the Fashion Scene by Storm

Ambitious and full of creativity, young Guy sought out the mentorship of the American Surrealist star in France, Man Ray. After many attempts to reach Man Ray, most of which were stopped by the artist’s wife, Bourdin finally got to meet his idol in the year of 1950. Soon, Bourdin had succeeded in gaining the confidence of Man Ray who accepted him as a protégé. Guy made his first exhibition of drawings and paintings at Galerie, Rue de la Bourgogne, Paris, whilst the first show organized around his photos came in 1953. It should be noted that the author used a pseudonym in the early stages of his career, usually calling himself Edwin Hallan. Bourdin’s first fashion shots were published in the February 1955 issue of Vogue Paris. He quickly became a star of the world, often working with his friend and colleague Helmut Newton who also worked extensively for Vogue. The two photographers established many aspects of the modern photography and its practices[3]. In fact, Newton once stated the following: Between him and me, the Vogue became pretty irresistible in many ways and we complemented each other. If he had been alone or I had been alone it wouldn’t have worked. In 1985, Bourdin turned down the Grand Prix National de la Photographie, but his name is retained on the list of award winners. Guy died six years later.

The Alternative World of Guy Bourdin and His Photos

While conventional fashion images make beauty and clothing their central elements, Bourdin’s photographs offer a radical alternative. This may very well be the best way to describe the art of Guy, aiming precisely at its core. By exploring the boundaries of that alternative world of style and sensuality, Bourdin set the stage for what we today call fashion photography. When his career came to an end, this artist had created countless pictures for Vogue but also worked for other companies and publications including the likes of Harper’s Bazaar, Chanel, Charles Jourdan, Pentax and Bloomingdale’s. This, combined with the fact that Guy’s photographs are a part of important institutions’ collections such as the ones at Tate and MoMA, is the best testament to just how crucial Bourdin is to the medium of modern photography.


  1. Gingeras, A. M., Bourdin, G., Guy Bourdin (55s), Phaidon Press; Reissue edition, 2011
  2. Bure, G. D., Guy Bourdin, Thames & Hudson, 2008
  3. Toscani, O., Bourdin, G., Guy Bourdin: Polaroids, Editions Xavier Barral, 2010

Featured image: Guy Bourdin – Self portrait in Man Ray’s Studio, 1953 – Image via

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016? The image as question: An exhibition of evidential photography Michael Hoppen Gallery, LondonGroup
2016MenagerieMichael Hoppen Gallery, LondonGroup
2015Guy Bourdin - Walking Legs Michael Hoppen Gallery, LondonSolo
2015Coming into Fashion. Un siglo de fotografía en Condé NastMuseo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey (MARCO), Monterrey, NLGroup
2014 ‘Solo Show’, Paris Photo Los Angeles, USA, Louise Alexander Gallery, ItalySolo
2014 ‘The Retrospective’, Somerset House, London, UKSolo
2013 ‘The Retrospective’Deichtorhallen Hamburg, GermanySolo
2011 "The Retrospective", Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Porto Alegre, BrazilSolo
2010 "Ses films", 10 Corso Como, Seoul, South Korea Solo
2010 "A Message For You", Canal Isabel II, Madrid, Spain Solo
2010 "In Between", French Consulate, NYC, US Solo
2009A Message For You, Photography Festival, Cannes, France Solo
2009Ses films, Le Bon Marche, Paris, France Solo
2009The Retrospective, MUBE, Sao Paolo, Brazil Solo
2009The Retrospective, Moscow House of Photograph, Moscow, Russia Solo
2009A Message For You, Gallery Carla Sozzani, Milan, ItalySolo
2008The Retrospective, FotoMuseum, Antwerp, Belgium Solo
2008The Retrospective, KunstHausWein, Vienna, Austria Solo
2008A Message For You, Today’s Art Museum, Beijing, China Solo
2007 "A Message For You", Hollywood Centre, HK, China Solo
2006 "A Message For You", HSBC Foundation, Paris, FranceSolo
2006A Message For You, Phillips de Pury, NYC, US Solo
2006The Retrospective, Daimaru Umeda Museum, Osaka, Japan Solo
2006The Retrospective, Tokyo Met Museum of Photography, Japan Solo
2006 "The Retrospective", Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, China Solo
2006A Message For You, Peggy Guggenheim, Venice, Italy Solo
2005 "The Retrospective", National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China Solo
2005The Retrospective, NRW, Dusseldorf, Germany Solo
2004The Retrospective, FOAM, Amsterdam, NetherlandsSolo
2004The Retrospective,Jeu de Paume, Paris, France Solo
2004 "The Retrospective", National Gallery Victoria, Melbourne, Australia Solo
2003The Retrospective, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, England Solo
1991 Dies in Paris aged 62Solo
1988Contributes photographs to the Triennale International de la Photographie, Paris, France Solo
1987Terminates his contract with French Vogue Solo
1987 First editorial fashion photographs for The Best Solo
1987 Advertising campaign for Révillon, and Chanel Solo
1986 Contributes photographs to the art fair Photokina 86, Cologne, Germany Solo
1985 Refuses the Grand Prix National de la Photographie awarded by French Ministry of Culture Solo
1985Advertising campaign for Emanuel Ungaro Solo
1982 Advertising campaigns for Gianfranco Ferré, Lancetti, and Roland Pierre Solo
1982 Group exhibition “Color as Form” International Museum of Photography, NYC, US Group
1981 Final advertising campaign for Charles Jourdan Solo
1981 First editorial fashion photographs for Linea italiana Solo
1980 Calendar for Pentax Solo
1978 Calenders for Issey Miyake and Yashica Solo
1978 Advertising campaign for Claude Montana Solo
1978 Contributes photographs to the art fair Photokina 78, Cologne, Germany Solo
1977First editorial fashion photographs for Vogue Hommes and 20 Ans Solo
1976 Advertising campaigns for Baila, by Gianfranco Ferré and Complice & Callaghan, by Gianni Versace, and Loewe Solo
1976 Lingerie catalogue Sighs and Whispers for Bloomingdale's department storeNew York Solo
1975 Advertising campaign for Issey Miyake Solo
1974First editorial fashion photographs for British Vogue Solo
1973Advertising campaign for MAFIA advertising agencyParis Solo
1972First editorial fashion photographs for Italian Vogue Solo
1969Group exhibition "L'insolite et la mode" Galerie Delpire, Paris, France Group
1957 First editorial fashion photographs for Harper's Bazaar and Photo Solo
1957 First Charles Jourdan shoes advertising campaign Solo
1957 Group exhibition “Vogue”International Photography Biennale, Venice, Italy Group
1957 Exhibition of paintings and drawings Peter Deitsch Gallery, New York, US Solo
1956 Exhibition of drawings Galerie de Seine, 24 rue de Seine, Paris, France Solo
1955 Exhibition of paintingsGalerie Charpentier, Paris, FranceSolo
1955Exhibition of drawings Galerie des Amis des Arts, 26 cours Mirabeau, Paris, France Solo
1954Exhibition of drawings Galerie de Beaune, 5 rue de Beaune, Paris, FranceSolo
1953Exhibition of photographs under the pseudonym Edwin HallanGalerie Huit, Paris, France Solo
1952catalogue includes an introduction by Man RayGalerie 29, Paris, France Solo
1950First exhibition of drawings and paintings Galerie, Rue de la Bourgogne, Paris, France Solo