Edited By Christine Whitney
- GUY BOURDIN / CHARLES JOURDAN AUTUMN 1977 CAMPAIGN
- GUY BOURDIN / CHARLES JOURDAN SPRING 1978 CAMPAIGN
As James Dean is to Hollywood and Mick Jagger is to rock and roll, Guy Bourdin is to fashion photography. Throughout his 1970s heyday, Bourdin’s editorial and advertising images (for prestigious clients from French Vogue to shoe designer Charles Jourdan) were often irreverent, sometimes shocking, and always beautiful and provocative. Alongside contemporaries like Helmut Newton and Deborah Turbeville, Bourdin revolutionized photography and advertising by emphasizing the overall impact of the image, rather than the importance of the product. His works are full of high gloss, high contrast, and high glamour, always with an underlying frisson of danger and transgressive sexuality. If you gave Bourdin a swimsuit, a pair of heels, and some red lipstick, he could make magic.
This month, Louise Alexander Gallery, the Paris gallery that handles Bourdin’s estate, is celebrating the photographer par excellence with “Mise en Abyme,” a solo exhibition of both the photographer’s iconic and unseen works during the Paris Photo art fair at the Grand Palais. To mark the occasion, The Violet Files spoke to Bourdin’s collaborator, model, and muse Nicolle Meyer—you might recognize her from his unforgettable swimming pool photo, among others—about her memories of working with the legend.
WRITTEN BY ALEXIS BRUNSWICK
Model Nicolle Meyer on working with the master; plus more photographs from the new Bourdin exhibition at Paris Photo.
ON THEIR FIRST MEETING...
“I was sent to Guy’s studio on one of my first go-sees, at age seventeen, with just a few trial shots. He asked to see my identity card and, being the superstitious man he was, he wanted to know my zodiac sign. That same week he booked me, and I worked with him intensely for three years. I was enthusiastic, which made for a prolific work relationship.” —Nicolle Meyer
ON BOURDIN’S PROCESS...
“Sets for the various shoots were built per Guy’s specifications. These could be, for example, a giant shoe box large enough for me to stand in upright. Guy sketched his ideas in a notebook he always carried with him, and then these ideas were then constructed, much like theater sets. He paid a lot of attention to detail and would often pop into the changing room to discuss makeup, hair, and styling. It was an equally important part of the process and ritual of preparation. Guy was involved in every aspect.” — N.M.
ON GETTING THE SHOT...
“Guy always had very distinct ideas of what he wanted. Interior shoots in general were more staged than exterior ones. In some shoots I was just a body part, and in others he set the stage and I would interpret his ideas, much like a film shot frame by frame. He would also just shoot you off guard, lying in a field or waiting on a sidewalk. He captured those moments as well.” — N.M.
ON BOURDIN BEAUTY...
“Guy’s studio in Paris was his laboratory. He spent hours, sometimes days, preparing an image. I loved keeping my makeup on after a late-night shoot. The glamorous Guy Girl look was very different from my personal style. Having that face applied was like stepping into a theater and exiting as another character. It was empowering.” — N.M.
ON MEMORABLE MOMENTS...
“One of the most magical shoots [not pictured] was at Karl Lagerfeld’s château for French Vogue. Guy created an atmosphere that permeated the whole stay. The images were very romantic, a color-saturated and heightened reality. It was a mix of Marquis de Sade and Barry Lyndon, with Pachelbel drifting through the rooms and outdoors from a portable record player he had brought along.”
ON BREAKING BOUNDARIES...
“If you wanted to work with Guy you had to be open to his ideas, be a free spirit—trust him, pose no boundaries.” — N.M.