For one of my projects I had to analyse a given image by a popular photographer, in my case Guy Bourdin, who worked with Vogue, Chanel, Harper’s Bazaar and Bloomingdale’s. I analysed Guy’s photograph by annotating, illustrating and deconstructing the image. The most enjoyable part of the process was to find what is the massage that the photographer sends through his photoshoot.
Guy Bourdin for Charles Jourdan (1978)
The image was taken by Guy Bourdin in collaboration with Charles Jourdan in 1978 for a shoe campaign.
Bourdin created an everyday scene with the help of an urban landscape capturing the atmosphere of the seventies. What caught my eye was the colour contrast between the bright red nails and the muted colour palette that the urban scene brings. What stood out besides the red nails was the outfit with the beautiful heels and how the woman embraces it.
This picture conveys tranquility, as I try to see in the building’s window reflection, there is an empty parking lot which means the area is quite even if we talk about an urban location. Besides the tranquility that this picture brings, the photo conveys respect too because the woman walks really confident with her head up and her hands in her pockets. As I overlook on some aspects of daily life I feel like this picture gives us the feeling that it was taken on a quiet Sunday, showing a woman who walks around the city with no worries.
Analysing two-dimensionaly, there is a foreground and a background that gives the idea of a time frame between past and present.
There is good colour and dramatic detail in the image from the black and white in the polaroid to the red nails and the blue lightning in the building’s windows. He used a cropped effect and a black and white polaroid to assure that he didn’t focus on the product.
The artistic approach is interesting because he doesn’t focus on one subject or place, he focuses on two, which means he has more than one perspective on his story. He doesn’t shoot the product and this gives the idea of a story behind the photo that is way more important than the product itself.
I have found out that this technique of incorporating an image into a picture is called “mise en abyme” which means “place in the abyss”. There are some interesting images with the same technique and some of them stood out to me.
“Las Meninas” by Diego Velasquez is a classic example which reminds me of Guy’s image. A mirror reflecting the faces of Philip IV and his wife is inserted behind Margaret Theresa who is the principal subject of the picture. Another example is “The Arnolfini Portrait” by Jan van Eyck (1434). This image shows a wedding scene with a couple taking vows. Besides the crazy details in the picture we can see “mise en abyme” technique in the mirror which shows a scene from the Passion of Christ.
The Arnolfini Portrait
Bourdin is known for placing Polaroids within his shoots and also playing with layouts. He changed influenced fashion with his disturbing but seductive photographs.
This is one of the reasons why he reminds me of Terry Richardson’s work.
I was curious to see some of his work especially for Charles Jourdan.
He had a way to make his photos look effortless but in fact the poses are calculated really well. His photos with “the popular legs” are a Bourdin’s move for sure. By placing cut-out legs in the photographs made it look like an unfinished story, giving the idea that this is just the beginning and it’s more to know.