Purple Magazine
— The New York issue #39 S/S 2023

Guy Bourdin In New York: A Love Letter To America



Inspired by Americana while drawing on wide-ranging sources, these photographs by Guy Bourdin are part of a rare compilation of a body of work that includes beautiful and diverse images, spanning more than three decades spent on the East and West Coasts. Bourdin was very much a product of his time, yet his legacy has proven to be timeless. New York is where it started. As early as the 1950s and through the end of the 1970s, New York became his dream studio, the perfect canvas, with Manhattan’s skyline, bridges, huge avenues, and dark, empty streets. The hyperreal colors and the interplay of mysterious light and shadow transformed his imagery into a Surrealist fantasy. Bourdin explored the realms between the absurd and the sublime, exploiting chance effects and unexpected juxtapositions, while discovering the American Dream and its realities.

Surrealism had provided the primary conceptual influence for Bourdin during his formative years in Paris, most likely through his relationship with Man Ray — an artist liberated from convention, ready to work in any medium — whom he considered a role model. When Man Ray returned from New York to postwar Paris in 1951, the then 22-year- old Bourdin was determined to meet him. He was eventually admitted to his studio, and Man Ray was sufficiently impressed by the young man’s talent to write a short introduction for Bourdin’s first photographic exhibition in Paris in 1952. Following Man Ray’s legacy of exercising total creative freedom, Bourdin found in New York a challenging platform for his creative canvas and liberated spirit.

Bourdin operated in many disciplines simultaneously: his interests were not restricted to Surrealism but extended also to literature and art history. He meticulously collaged his references to create new stories that reflected his artistic direction and ethos — always original, dramatic, and emotional. America added to his storytelling, with its Hollywood glamour, sci-fi, thrillers, Cadillacs, Pop Art, and youth liberation. Bourdin loved and was in- spired by American cinema, in particular psychological thrillers and avant-garde movies by directors like Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick. Toward the end of the 1960s, Bourdin realized that he could create a voyeuristic canvas, echoing B-movie intrigue and suspense through dramatic cropping and composition.

Bourdin was one of the first image-makers to use fashion photography as his medium to create disquieting, ambiguous settings and suggestive narratives, enticing viewers into his compellingly crafted scenes. By the late 1970s, his unique use of the double spread and the centerfold was considered an art form. By manipulating the pages, he created animated, surreal, artistic narratives — half fiction, half reality.

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The New York issue #39 S/S 2023

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