Tuesday 6 January 2015

Guy Bourdin: Image Maker @ Somerset House

I don't need to be asked twice to call in on the beautiful Somerset House; this applies all the more so when ya throw the excuse of a first-class photography exhibition into the mix. Needless to say, I leapt at the chance to check out the latest - stunning - display of a famed fashion photographer whose seminal works I've been a long-time lover of. An in-depth retrospective of 100+ pieces, Guy Bourdin: Image Maker offers an intimate and insightful glimpse into the ingenious workings of one of the 20th century's preeminent creative minds. 

As well as showcasing a rich selection of some of Bourdin's most esteemed works, the exhibit - which runs until 15 March 2015 - outlines his entire creative process, with the photographer's orange Rhodia notebooks and tracing paper snippets of preparatory technical drawings displayed in simple glass cases throughout. Having been mentored by distinguished visual artist Man Ray, Bourdin constructed his creations with a marked surrealist vibe, fused with an unconventional style very much belonging to him. 

While Guy Bourdin was first and foremost noted for his exceptional fashion photography, namely his work for Paris Vogue and advertorials for Charles Jourdan, the 'Image Maker' of the expo's title is quite literal; Bourdin's unedited cine films (created on a Super 8 camera) and detailed sketches confirm his remarkable image-making ability per se.  

Whether he was using real-life models or - as characteristic of many photographs - surreal freestanding mannequin legs in their place, Bourdin had an unparalleled knack for subverting contemporary aesthetic ideals and creating images that simultaneously intrigued and delighted the spectator. Even his polaroids, which primarily served to check his meticulously thought out compositions before pressing the shutter, are of an unparalleled quality. 

As you reach the end of the exhibition, there remains no doubt that Bourdin positioned himself in the vanguard of commercial visual culture, inspiring subsequent generations of photographers in the process; Guy Bourdin: Image Maker certainly does him justice.  

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