Legs, leotards, red nails, a little rouge – Guy Bourdin’s strange and distinctive fashion photography completely did away with the more buttoned-up tastes of his predecessors. Throughout his 40-year career, from surrealist photographer Man Ray’s protégé to shooting for Vogue Paris to his experiments with Super-8 film, he championed an altogether more coquettish style of image-making.
Like most fashion photographers of his time, Bourdin used Polaroids in preparation for his shoots, but he also incorporated some of these into his final shots to create a layered effect. This technique of placing an image within an image is what the French call “mise en abyme,” which roughly translates as “place in the abyss,” and many of these experiments with Polaroids were actually shot as highly original ad campaigns for French shoe designer Charles Jourdan in the 1970s.
As part of Paris Photo which opens at the Grand Palais in mid-November, the Italian gallery Louise Alexander, which represents the French photographer’s estate, is staging a solo show of Bourdin’s work at the photography fair in Paris. A major highlight of the exhibition will be these mise en abyme photographs, and unseen colour prints of images repeated within themselves will be shown alongside the originals of the black-and-white Polaroids. These images show how the ever-provocative Bourdin managed to push even his commercial commissions into surreal and unexpected territory.
Louise Alexander Gallery will present Mise en Abyme at Paris Photo from 12–15 November at the Grand Palais in Paris.
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