Friday, 14 August 2009

The Bourdin Effect

A few months ago I accompanied my dad to the launch night of an exhibition of unseen photographs taken by the legendary Guy Bourdin. Being unfamiliar with his work I was hooked in by the fact the party was being hosted by French Vogue and Cent magazine. The exhibition took place at Wapping Power Station, which is incidentally an incredible events space. Canapes and cocktails were plentiful the model-esque female DJ wore a spangly military jacket and played The Rolling Stones, the Pet Shop Boys and French rockers from the 60s. Needless to say the people watching was amazing! Beyond my excitement of Henry Holland squeezing past me and seeing Jemima Khan in all her bouncy-haired glory I have been left with a real love and appreciation for Bourdin's work. The thing that struck me is how ahead of his time he was, and how influential his images have been in the fashion world. The overall impression of faintly pornographic glamour reminded me of so many things; from David Lynch's movies, to countless editorial spreads I've seen to pop videos by Madonna and Kylie.

The vulnerable asymmetry of Bourdin's often visually dismembered female subjects, disturbed me the same way David Lynch's scarlett-lipped heroines did. The first time I saw 'Blue Velvet' I was haunted by Lynch's warped depiction of women; as victimised images of sex. Bourdin's stills had the same affect on me, whatever it says about his attitude towards women, in an era before photoshop and digital touch ups his images were flawless, not to mention avant-garde. Bourdin had a way of taking a woman's classic vampy look and inverting it. Beyond the associations made in Bourdin's photos between high fashion and horror and death, we must not discount his distinctive use of lighting and colour which has left an indelible mark on contemporary culture. It could not be more relevant or poignant at this time where our appreciation for all things 80s is at its peak. It is the bright lighting and vivid blues and reds that remind me of Kylie's highly sexualised video for 'Slow' Madonna's video for 'Hollywood' as well as so many fashion shoots of a siren brighter than bright blue swimming pool. His works have the surreal element of Salvador Dali combined with the fashion credibility of Mario Testino. All hail King Bourdin for the influence he has had on female beauty and sex appeal as we know it today!

1. Photograph by Guy Bourdin
2. Video by Kylie Minogue 'Slow'
3. Photograph by Guy Bourdin
4. Video by Madonna 'Hollywood'
5. Photograph by Guy Bourdin
6. Editorial from Pop Magazine, Winter 02-03
7. Editorial from Pop Magazine, Winter 02-03

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