Butt up, legs out: the photographs of Guy Bourdin

See more sexy after the jump.

Guy Bourdin (1928-91) is one of those rare fashion photographers who straddled the line between art and commerce, ultimately leaving his mark in both worlds. Bourdin got an unusual start, receiving his first formal photographic training while serving in the military in Senegal in the late 40s. A few years later, when he came back to Paris, his photographs were exhibited in a show for which Man Ray wrote the catalogue’s introduction – a helluva start for a newbie. He was quickly whisked away to French Vogue, where his love of Man Ray’s surrealism made a marked impact on his fashion editorials.

Bourdin’s demand for perfection and a high gloss finish to his work made a big splash in advertising at the time. He rejected the standard “product shot in favor of atmospheric tableaux and suggestions of narrative.” Moreover, his images are sexy, like actually sexy, not the this-ad-looks-expensive-and-this-model-is-famous brand of sexy fashion magazines try to hawk nowadays. His images are confident, with rich colors, striking compositions, a unique, defined perspective and – what’s more – they’re actually interesting, which is a lot more than can be said of so many of today’s (and yesterday’s, too) arbitrarily contrived fashion editorials that are big on budget and low on sex appeal.

A short collection of some of Bourdin’s most famous as well as previously unpublished images is available fromPhaidon for just under $13.