Though most widely known for his color images, Guy Bourdin launched his career in black and white in the early 1950s. A new monograph, entitled Untouched and published by the German publishing house Steidl, explores this largely unseen work and gives insight into the early development of his photographic eye. The carefully constructed images, initially conceived as an exhibition series, reveal his artistic motivation years before he began working on assignments for Vogue Paris and Photo Femina. Untouched is the first volume in a series of eight forthcoming books that explore the photographer’s complete works.
Philippe Garner (former Head of Photographs at Christie’s), author of an essay entitled Unique perspectives, explains: “Though Guy Bourdin is widely acknowledged as an artist of exceptional inspiration, he has remained in many ways an enigma. His individual images can be compelling, disquieting, haunting; cumulatively, they constitute a strange, off-kilter, yet totally credible parallel universe – our recognisable world dramatically reconfigured through the powerful imagination of this artist. Untouched unveils a compelling narrative regarding his formative years. Painstakingly salvaged and dusted down, sorted and examined as the precious archaeological fragments that they are, these photographs illuminate the crucial first years of Bourdin’s image making.”
In another text, author Shelly Verthime recounts the process of discovery: “A yellow Kodak Box, a treasure found in the archive, filled with a series of brown paper envelopes that each contained a negative and with a corresponding contact print taped to the outside, often with cropping guides. Untouched for fifty years were rare, intimate, personal, and authentic reflections of Guy Bourdin’s broad visual interests before he started his commercial career as a photographer. What are we being shown? What do we see? Sometimes it is at first difficult to tell, since the subjects can appear so unassuming. Yet here is his poetic portrait of Paris, a subtle visual research, questioning reality, playing with the viewer’s gaze, like the Surrealists and the artists of the Subjective Photography School who so inspired him. The experiments are endless; these images, many of which were presented in his early exhibitions, are the studies that provided the structure for Guy Bourdin’s future artistic signature.”
Guy Bourdin, Untouched
Published by Steidl