What more can be said about his brilliance? Below are excerpts from my 2005 text on the photographer.
Guy Bourdin published surrealist fashion photographs in Vogue Paris from the late 1960's through the early 1990's. The work is reductive, offering no more than a barely dressed model and a lush or intimate location. Subtle innuendos incorporate absence with suspense, keeping the images from resolution.
Something is always about to happen, is happening, or has just happened, none of it is explained and all of it seems somehow sexual. We are given a "fantasy primer." We also find however a deliberately evasive style, one that repetitively leaves out details at the subtle line of the sexual event - Bourdin illuminates the threshold of the sexual event.
If we try to complete the story, we must depart from the original seduction. If we theoretically interpret the photos, we "break the appearance and play of the manifest discourse," in the words of Baudrillard. Fantasy is something that wants to be free of the object, but soft core is a fantasy of the object and invites a response to what we openly see and do not see, an invitation to imagine.
In Bourdin's scenes, the subject we find is not a threat. Most of Bourdin's subjects appear defenseless, relaxed, self-interested and are often diminutive. What we have is innocence and we are lead to accept the photo without defense. The soft core ambiance communicates a passivity within the bounty of production and the leisure of democratic capitalism.
With Bourdin and other fashion photographs, we submit to a false innocence of consumption, a consumption of luxury and inessential goods. The world is being sold to those who already possess it, and this time the sales tactic is not agressive and overt but mild and suggestive.