Bourdin’s alluring images shaped both commercial and art photography throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s.
While the legendary French photographer Guy Bourdin is best known for his approach to surrealism, “his influences were very diverse,” as his son Samuel Bourdin recounted. Maintenance magazine. “From pop culture to high art, American comic books from the 50s and 60s, hyperrealist painters, classic filmmakers like Erich von Stroheim, horror movies, Pre-Raphaelite painters, classical music, James Brown.”
His attitude to life, Samuel observed, is best summed up in his dictum, “It is better to live five minutes of happiness than a whole life in a conventional way.” And better to shock than appease.
Bourdin, who was born in France in 1928 and died in 1991, had work exhibited in and collected by some of the most prestigious museums in the world, including the Museum of Modern Art, the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate Modern in London . Jeu de Paume, the Getty Museum and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography.
His career has spanned over 40 years, and he has worked with all the major fashion magazines as well as Chanel, Charles Jourdan, Pentax and Bloomingdale’s, among others, creating lush, bold images that were unlike anything else.
While he’s never had the name recognition of, say, Helmut Newton, Bourdin’s work is taking on new life thanks to something he never could have imagined: blockchain technology.
The Guy Bourdin Estate is a key collaborator in Fellowship, a new photography platform “dedicated to bringing the most acclaimed names in photography to Web3,” led by a collection of artists and creatives including Wallpaper*’s Holly Hay, Chadwick Tyler and Alejandro Cartagena among others.
“Fellowship will host NFT collections of works by living artists, emerging photographers and artists’ estates like Bourdin’s, “marking a turning point for photography on the blockchain.”
By creating a “new path for artists to present work on the blockchain,” and by enabling a new generation of collectors, “Fellowship commissions and exhibits photography in an accessible way through a rotating spotlight on the best photographic talent, from the most important to breakthrough artists of tomorrow.”
In addition to Bourdin, Fellowship’s first series of NFT photography exhibitions includes the work of Joel Meyerowitz, Gregory Crewdson and Joel Sternfeld. We spoke to Frederic Arnal, director of the Guy Bourdin Estate, about his life and legacy.
Why is Bourdin’s work so important?
Guy Bourdin pushed the boundaries of fashion photography as early as the mid-1950s, at a time when its primary purpose was mostly to illustrate elegance. His single image narratives, both complex and alluring, reoriented the work of fine art photographers and shaped both commercial and fine art photography throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s, in ways that still echo today. A longtime collaborator of French Vogue, Bourdin’s work brought a new level of thoughtfulness to image creation in fashion photography and beyond.
What new ground has he broken as a photographer?
Surrealist art and commercial and fashion photography were considered distinctly different fields during the 1950s. Guy Bourdin was the first artist to merge these worlds with his unconventional work, elevating storytelling within fashion photography above even the products being promoted. His images cemented fashion photography – and in some ways fashion itself – as the narrative art we know today.
Why does his work remain relevant?
Creating narratives is an art in itself, and only a handful of artists have mastered it over photography’s 150-year history. To this day, Bourdin’s work serves as a seminal example of tableau photography within the art and commercial photography space for its iconic aesthetic as well as its innovative spirit.
How will Fellowship help strengthen this?
One of Fellowship’s goals is to make the art of photography – from historically important collections to newer works – accessible to a wider audience via Web3. Collaborations with the Guy Bourdin Estate and other artists’ archives have already revealed new ways of understanding these seminal works. And it invited a new generation of artists to explore Bourdin’s artistic vision and expand on their own.
What is Bourdin’s legacy to the world of photography?
A spirit of relentless innovation that radiates through his life’s work.
Tags: art blockchain Cryptocurrency Entertainment Guy Bourdin magazine article photography Web3