Bourdin, born in Paris in 1928, was one of the most radical and influential fashion photographers of the 20th century. His unique combination of surreal and erotic images filled the pages of international magazines such as Vogue (specifically French Vogue, since it was his fetish photographer for three decades), Harpers Bazaar or Photo during the 1970s.
It also became a symbol with its revolutionary advertising campaigns. In them, he broke paradigms by giving more importance to the image than to the product, becoming a distinctive photographer in the industry. Soon his photos became famous and he was invited to be part of several campaigns for renowned brands such as Bloomingdale, Gianfranco Ferré, Gianni Versace, Loewe and many more, highlighting his work for the Charles Jourdan brand.
His advertising and fashion work was even awarded in 1988, in New York, with an Infinity Award from the Center for International Photography. Together with figures such as Helmut Newton or Richard Avedon, he introduced a new trend and style when it comes to editorial and fashion photography.
In 1950 he met Man Ray in Paris and became his protégé. Consequently, surrealism was always present in his work and he was always inspired by such disparate figures as Alfred Hitchcock and Lewis Caroll. He cleverly fused a very European aesthetic with the postwar pop culture of the US West Coast.
Bourdin realized that it is not fashion itself that seduces people, but the fantasy it represents. He was a true transgressor in photography, images loaded with saturation and impossible poses. He was passionate about the image, he worked on it with a unique and comprehensive vision. A photographer who knew how to turn his models into characters devoid of life, with blank stares and envelop them in situations surrounded by tragedy. Psychodrama and the theater of the absurd pervade his work; A true storyboard master, Bourdin rigorously planned his compositions for fashion shoots to fit the format of the printed page. Conceived long before the advent of digital retouching, he went to great lengths to produce highly stylized images, often pushing his models to the limit to achieve the desired vision.
Breakthrough, unpredictable and enigmatic, his work has a transcendental value, for this reason it has been exhibited in important international museums such as the Tate Modern and the Victoria & Albert Museum, in London; the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, in Paris; the Getty Museum, in Los Angeles, among others.
Bourdin’s creativity enriched fashion photography, created extraordinary worlds, broadened the vision of creatives, paved the way for them and inspired those who now dedicate themselves to it such as Nick Knight, David La Chapelle or Jean-Baptiste Mondino. Bourdin, through his art of provocation, eroticism and fantasy, marked a before and after in the world of fashion.