“He knew this time when it was the photographer who had the power over the stylist”


Guy Bourdin for Charles Jourdan, fall 1970.

Tied up and stretched out on rails, right in the middle of the countryside, three women’s legs rest, in tangy tights and patent pumps. Are these members connected to a non-executive trunk? And why are they odd in number? Is this shot captured before or after the death of the heroines? A single image but already, in the mind of the spectator, a film starts: this is all the talent of Guy Bourdin, dignitary of XX photographye century.

This photo on the rails, dated 1970, was made for the shoe brand Charles Jourdan. One of the most successful advertising associations in the history of fashion, both having won artistic esteem and commercial success, and which features prominently in “Guy Bourdin Storyteller”, a new exhibition curated in Milan at the Armani/Silos, Fashion Art Museum inaugurated by Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani in 2015.

The very suitable mannequins of theimperator of Italian minimalism, now 88 years old, are a thousand miles from the hypersexualized women of the French photographer: “Guy Bourdin is not an artist with whom I have much in common”, is it suitable as a preamble to the hanging. But to emphasize his ability to “not following the crowd and not compromising: I identify with that”.

Hit a bourgeoise in a nightie

Square heels, but high, or stilettos, straps enclosing the ankles… Shoes, fetishized accessories since the 18th centurye century, complete the silhouettes of Guy Bourdin’s heroines, slender women with endless legs, whether standing or lying down. Like in this photo, where a painting fallen from the wall seems to have hit a bourgeoise in a nightie and shoes who is lying, inert, on the carpet.

“To understand Bourdin, we must first remember that he blossomed in the context of a sexual liberation – where we talk about the pill and contraception – which agitated white and privileged circles in the 1960s, resituates Sarah Banon, professor at the French Fashion Institute and doctoral student at Paris-VIII-Vincennes. With Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin will take this liberation from concept to representation, by imagining it. »

Both will show their fantasies in the pages of the French edition of vogue, introduced by Edmonde Charles-Roux, whom Guy Bourdin met in 1954. Hat-shock, his first order, shows a “havana piqué tulle sunbonnet” signed Claude Saint-Cyr, on the head of a model posing in the popular Les Halles market, with calves’ heads and gutted rabbits in the background.

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