Friday, 29 April 2011

When The Sky Fell Down

Guy Bourdin: the little man with the big reputation.

By Kara ter Morsche

Guy Bourdin was nothing short of legendary, if somewhat short in height. Man Ray’s protégée has been resting in peace for 20 years this year, and to mark the decades that have passed, a film has been created to uncover the stories behind the decadent images he produced.

Guy insisted that his work be destroyed postdating his death, but as he did not keep much of it within his personal inventory, it continued to be visible and play a vital part in influencing young creatives. Nick Knight and David LaChapelle are amongst the vast array of photographers who have cited Bourdin as a great imparter of inspiration in their work.

The documentary film, entitled ‘When The Sky Fell Down: The Myth Of Guy Bourdin’ was created by Guys former assistant, Sean Brandt. It features interviews that attempt to both retrospectively appreciate his devilishly creative genius, and uncover the rumour-laden dark personality he radiated to his colleagues. The cinematic offering is set to be screened at Cannes, and as Brandt told the Guardian, ‘It will serve as both the definitive film on one of the worlds most influential visual artists, but its also the story of a sons struggle to rescue his fathers legacy from obscurity.’

Bourdin had a long-standing relationship with the most biblical of fashion publications, most notably Vogue. The images he produced contained strong surrealist association, an obvious quality that Bourdin inherited from Man Ray, alongside formations of death, sex and the manipulation of fashion items into more sinister objects.

Though his work has made a name for itself as undeniable provocative brilliance, his manner left more to be questioned. There are many tales of Bourdin that construct the image he was extremely demanding and difficult to work with. He lead a troubled life from the word go; his mother abandoned him as a baby, his wife died in 1969 for inconclusive reasons and his lover Sybill Danner committed suicide in 1981. It has been claimed he pushed his models to their absolute limit, striving to claim the best images possible in the days before picture manipulation technology. Two models even passed out on a Bourdin shoot, after he attempted to coat their entire bodies in a layer of glue covered in black pearls.

Following Bourdin’s death, his work was shown in prestigious museums worldwide. This was something he never partook in during his life, preferring to elude his work exclusively to print in magazines. His only son, Samuel Bourdin took on the premise of ensuring Guy’s work was still seen and appreciated by the public. However, he sued Madonna for her music video for ‘Hollywood’ after it was decided the scenes included were too similar to images shot by Bourdin.

Brandt told the Guardian that the best analogy for working with Bourdin was good sex, stating that it involved, ‘A lot of foreplay, mucking around, games, teasing, hard work and then, usually very late at night, a miracle.’

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