An astonishing personality, obsessive perfectionist, provocateur par excellence and a creator of genius, Guy Bourdin was one of the most flamboyant photographers of the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties. His biographer, Shelly Verthime, is presenting a completely unknown part of his œuvre at Arles this year: his early work in black and white from the Fifties. I knew Guy Bourdin well and that’s why we are reprinting today the words that appeared in Paris Match on his death in April 1991.
“You’re nothing but a Nazi. And I’m a Jew.Take it all! ” And the stunned inspector of taxes then saw his visitor take all his clothes off right there in his office. This scene took place about ten years ago. The naked man was none other than Guy Bourdin, the biggest and baddest of all French fashion photographers who has just died of a cancer that spread throughout his body. The anecdote continued and five days later, on getting in from school, Guy Bourdin’s son, Samuel, found a note from his father saying: “I won’t be sleeping here tonight. I’ll be in prison.” It was true. Bourdin’s anarchic accounting methods and his refusal to be harried in paying his taxes had resulted in him being taken in.
Roger Thérond, editor of Paris Match, and Robert Caille, editor of Vogue stood his bail and got him freed after just twenty-four hours. The next day he thanked them, adding: “You shouldn’t have done that. A year in prison would have been good for my soul.”
That was Guy Bourdin for you, a continual monumental provocation. Physically, he was a sort of Dorian Gray: an eternally youthful man of thirty, though he actually twice that. He discovered photography at the age of twenty, when selling lenses at La Samaritaine.
Read the full article by Jean-Jacques Naudet (Extract from Paris Match on April 11th, 1991 – #2185) in the French version of Le Journal.
Guy Bourdin – Untouched
From July 1st to September 22nd, 2013
Espace Van Gogh
Everyday 10am – 7.30pm