Bourdins Background

Guy Bourdin was born in Paris. His mother abandoned him when he was still an infant, and he was alternately raised by his grandparents in Normandy and Paris and placed in a boarding school. Bourdin was the only child to the age of fifteen, when his brother, Michael, was born, and he spent much time in the solitary pursuits of reading and drawing.

At age twenty Bourdin joined the French air force for his mandatory two years of military service, working as an aerial photographer in Dakar, Senegal. After he completed his service, he wanted to buy a small wedding photography business in Magny-en-Vexin, near the family home in Normandy. Refused a loan by his father, Bourdin worked at Bon Marché, the Paris department store, selling lenses and at a variety of odd jobs, including cleaning floors, acting as a messenger at the U.S. Embassy, and washing dishes at the Brasserie Lipp. During this period, he continued to draw, photograph, and produce paintings inspired by Balthus, Francis Bacon, and Stanley Spencer.

In the late 1940s Edward Weston's photograph of a pepper showed Bourdin that photography could be art. He was also inspired by the monumental landscapes of Ansel Adams and developed a friendship with the dada painter and photographer Man Ray, who wrote the gallery announcement for Bourdin's 1952 exhibition at Galerie 29 on the rue de Seine in Paris. It was undoubtedly through Man Ray that Bourdin became acquainted with surrealism, which was to infuse his photography throughout his life.

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