Reads: Nature Magique, Guy Bourdin

It’s not hard to be inspired by the landscape and beauty of the natural world, but it’s definitely harder to capture it in a way that is new and provocative. This is exactly what legendary fashion photographer Guy Bourdin did with every subject he photographed during his impressive career. 25 years after his death, Guy Bourdin Estate have published ‘Nature Magique’ – a limited edition photo book containing some of Bourdin’s most inspirational pictures, all based around the theme of nature.

Bourdin’s reputation as a provocateur stemmed from his often strange and shocking narratives, showing violence and sexuality in a way that was graphic and very ahead of its time. He frequently featured women appearing either injured, dead or in strange positions – or sometimes merely just showing legs or feet for effect. Controversy equalled huge recognition, and Bourdin is often cited as changing the face of fashion image-making and advertising.

Vogue Paris, September 1976
Vogue Paris, September 1976

We’ve always been big fans of his work (we previously featured his Somerset House exhibition and his pictures continuously crop up on our moodboards) so we’re thrilled there’s a new Guy-retrospective we can pore over. The images are glossy and hyper-real, portraying nature from the most subtle to the completely in-your-face (the 1977 photo of a naked woman face-down in a field of grass is perhaps the most literal example of this…).

The book ties in with a huge retrospective of his work, ‘Avant Garde’ currently showing at the Fotografiska Museet in Stockholm until mid-February. Bourdin was known for his lack of self-promotion – he famously turned down the Grand Prix National de la Photographie, awarded by the French Ministry of Culture in 1985 – and so his images were not always preserved or published in book format. For us, this makes ‘Nature Magique’ feel like a treasured snapshot of a pioneering and visually stimulating body of work. It’s also a beautiful ode to nature, of course captured in Bourdin’s very unique way and never quite what it seems.

So if you’re looking for a little graphic food for thought, we hope these images will inspire you as much as they did for us…

May 1979
May 1979
Unpublished, January 1978
Unpublished, January 1978

Words: Lucy Vincent
Images: Guy Bourdin Estate

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