Guy Bourdin revolutionized fashion photography in the late 20th century, similar to Helmut Newton. Both were the star photographers of Vogue Paris and produced some of the most iconic images of that era working for the top international fashion houses. While their medium was the magazine, they approached it with avant-garde point of view and sharp humour. Unique as they were, they both broke aesthetic conventions achieving a sense of timeless glamour in their editorials and advertising and independently of one another developing a sense of “radical chic.”
In 1970s at the peak of their career while they photographed magazine editorials, Newton shot the collections of clients such as Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Thierry Mugler, Mario Valentino and Blumarine. Simultaneously, Bourdin photographed collections such as Versace, Ungaro, Chloe, Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent while in addition he found a prime client in Charles Jourdan -the French shoe brand -that lasted over 15 years.
Now, for the first time ever Helmut Newton Foundation will showcase the iconic works by these two influential fashion photographers with an extensive exhibition in Berlin to celebrate their visionary artistic contribution and their enduring legacy.
Newton called himself in self-irony “A Gun for Hire,” a term then used for the title of the exhibition of his commissioned work shown posthumously in 2005 in Monaco and Berlin and later in Budapest. A selection of this project will now be shown again at the Helmut Newton Foundation – for the first time juxtaposed with the works of his notable French colleague, Guy Bourdin.
Guy Bourdin was a painter all his life and an auto-didact photographer; his career spanned over three decades since his debut editorial in 1955. He was also an instinctive Surrealist, a creator of enigmatic narratives and a sophisticated art director. He extended the possibilities of what a fashion photograph might be by creating images that were, cinematic and unforgettable with intense interplay of light and shadow, hyper real colors and tight composition.
Entitled “Image Maker” the exhibition introduces works by Guy Bourdin from various publications, iconic and lesser-known images, Vintage prints, Vogue Paris layouts alongside his visionary advertising for Charles Jourdan shoes. Both formally and contextually Bourdin presented shoes and other fashion products in challenging ways, by mainly using it as double spreads that resound today modern beyond their commercial context.
In Helmut Newton’s “A Gun for Hire” we can see commissions for fashion designers from the 1990s that were first published in their own fashion books, and later often shown by the photographer as part of his own oeuvre. It was never merely a fashion shoot which he produced, but also an unexpected, complex story, tinged with the suspense of an Alfred Hitchcock film – without forsaking the autonomy of the image. We encounter similar visual approach in the works of Bourdin. For Both, it is often unclear where reality ends and the staging begins; in this fantasy universe that they created, everything seems real and surreal at the same time, and occasionally bathed in a dreamlike cinematographic light.
In his later fashion and product shots Newton often staged photographic sequences, such as the black-and-white visual narrative for Villeroy & Boch (1985), a series of single images for Absolut Vodka (1995), a series with the model Monica Bellucci in different dresses by Blumarine (1998), and his 12 motifs with bikini models for a sports magazine calendar (2002).
Small and intimate, “June’s Room” is reserved for friends and colleagues of the Newtons – and this time for Helmut Newton’s former assistant Angelo Marino, who has gone on to work with Newton’s widow June (a.k.a. Alice Springs). Complementing the works of Bourdin and Newton, Marino presents under the title “Another Story” an eclectic view of his immediate environment, which he photographed on the way from his home in Cannes to his workplace in Monte Carlo. The snapshot-like images, taken with his iPhone, capture fellow travelers, the sea, or views of architecture and the landscape rushing past the window of the train. The show comprises a collection of 52 panels, each consisting of five color photographs arranged in a tableau representing one week.