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Whilst I was engaged in the previous styles, I came across the work of Rene Magritte but wasn’t quite sure how it could be translated to photography because I thought what works in painting may not necessarily work in photography. I then came across the work of first Cheyco Leidmann, then Guy Bourdin.

Cheyco Leidmann

Leidmann’s work was graphic and very colorful and there was nearly always some sort of surrealist incident in them – a thrown cat or a stuffed zebra out in the desert. In one of his books he even had the technical details of each shot. I analyzed the pictures to try to work out why they were so super saturated. The conclusions I came to were firstly, he put color into his pictures in the form of colorful lycra clothes or props and secondly he would use flash in daylight, so that even on an overcast day the colors would zing. He would use an 18mm lens at f22 square on to the subject without any apparent distortion. I could not afford an 18mm lens but I soon realized the smaller scale of my London back drops needed a longer lens. I settled on 28mm, which has since been my standard lens. 50mm is like a telephoto to me.

Cheyco Leidmann

Guy Bourdin

About the same time I came across the work of Guy Bourdin in an old advertising annual. It showed about 4 of his shoe pictures for Charles Jourdan. In the same book I found another two pictures in the same sort of style and these six pictures influenced me profoundly. When I had eventually digested all this and finally went out to take pictures, it was these three people who were at the front of my mind: Magritte, Bourdin and Leidmann.

The following year, 1985, I came across Bourdin’s work in French Vogue and followed him in it until he disappeared from it in ’87. There were no books or exhibitions and I saw no more until his book in 2001, the same year my own book came out. Before that though, I thought it a shame that he had been forgotten and that there was only 3 pictures of his on the internet so I created the first Bourdin site on the net with the few pages I had in my possession.

Guy BourdinCharles Jourdan shoe advertisement

Although I liked aspects of Leidmann’s work, I could see the limitations of it. You could not describe life with pictures of girls in pink lycra and graphic blocks of color but in Bourdin’s way you could.

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