Avoid the face.

One of the earliest ads I can remember liking:
43297-charles-jourdan-shoes-1976-photo-guy-bourdin-hprints-com
It’s for Charles Jourdan shoes, and it just seemed so exotic.

Surely fashion ads featured smiley, but unattainable models ‘demonstrating’ how to wear that particular bit of fashion, didn’t they?
This one showed an arse virtually against the camera lens, it was too dark to see the whole picture, one of the shoes was at an angle where I couldn’t see it properly the other is half in shadow and the name of the shoes is printed in tiny, little type.
It’s as if they really don’t give a shit.
Which is exactly what makes it so cool.
The genuinely cool you don’t pander and worry about how they look, they forge their own path, way, surprising, shocking and sometimes causing controversy along the way.
(It’s true, that’s how WE roll.)
But creating that vibe isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Ad agencies can’t really do it, they get too bogged down with logic, strategy and ideas, and in this category they are irrelevant.
So fashion houses chase photographers to give them an attitude.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the ‘Bum’ was shot by this dude:
13a13678ec7822c158ef8ba9f9762142
The late, great Guy Bourdin.
Arguably the most influential fashion photographer ever.
(Or most ripped off, depending on how you view that kind of thing.)

In 1964, Francine Crescent, accessories editor at French Vogue,  was asked by Roland Jourdan to suggest a photographer to shoot some ads for his father’s company; Charles Jourdan.
She suggested Bourdin.
110425_4622_1__large guy-bourdin-vogue-luglio-1958 guy-bourdin-e2809ctribute-to-hitchcocke2809d-1962-pst 43293-capobianco-shoes-laure-shoes-1956-photo-guy-bourdin-hprints-com MX-2610N_20120903_120405_015
Bourdin demanded total control.
Francine reassured Roland, “Don’t worry, you won’t be married, you could always change photographer”.
Not only did Roland stick with Guy until 1981, he never refused any of his pictures.
Very ballsy, because the pictures didn’t present Charles Jourdan as a fashion company with class, they presented the shoes as fetishistic objects of desire,  or as some bod at the time put it “Rejecting the ‘product shot’ in favour of atmospheric, often surreal tableaux and suggestions of narrative.”

The collaboration started with these, very sixties, graphic style ads.
43295-charles-jourdan-shoes-1967-photo-guy-bourdin-hprints-com28311-charles-jourdan-shoes-1967-models-melopee-majestic-mitsouko-photo-guy-bourdin-hprints-com
As Charles starts to trust Guy, the ads get more ambitious, models start to be represented rather than shown:
28310-charles-jourdan-shoes-1969-models-caleche-olympic-photo-guy-bourdin-hprints-com3f17f36aef1692e7f29cd9f8129a70c8guyjordan06 03-1967 Charles Jourdan Guy Bourdin Paris Vogue - March 1967MX-2600N_20110725_134850_001MX-2600N_20111027_132813_002

e1a2c0587815477f1fd34c4b67d77840bourdin

Faces aren’t disposed of altogether, they still pop up now and again over the years.

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maid
LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01 jordanbourdin43296-charles-jourdan-shoes-1973-photo-guy-bourdin-hprints-comlofficiel_604_1973_bourdin_charlesjourdinad48132271ac40338d34e8ceeb4ab9c5ceMX-2600N_20110908_133807_0136e597bd72a0b030eba4795537b5ee9acguy-bourdin-jourdan-harpers-queen-march-7640266-charles-jourdan-shoes-1973-photo-guy-bourdin-hprints-com

The shots are very atmospheric, full of attitude, cool, sexy etc, but faces in ads are problematic:
1. They are distracting, the readers eyes go straight to them like a magnet.
2. They can alienate, few people have faces like the models in the ads.
3. Most ads have faces in them, so they don’t stand out.

Who knows whether that was Guy’s thinking, but over time faces definitely become scarcer.
He comes up with tons of inventive ways of showing shoes without pesky models faces trying to steal the limelight.

1. CROP THE MODELS OUT:

ab1ed7b63001bd2d4c3d3077c9039b26754f40e93595cf2dc9a797fe8538e0dcf744ee3e8445417f73ddf9447422320ebf69_Photo_Guy_Bourdin 0b261521082eb725d2f4e4253797e7b2Charles-Jourdan-Shoe-Ad-Vogue-Oct-1976 2409334596d46dd7e4a47f0b45cb1e41
doorway-1
guy-bourdin-charles-jourdan-spring-19771 1740ced73a67d32ec73c6e59d68d4af1 guy-bourdin-charles-jourdan02 2b453ef8aaf169695fa248ea8974d032 42689d107e107f20d0982dde3adebfa3 42b2fc28f77533e131ee3117c41b9bbf361760 tumblr_mn25xfXy2m1ry1hqto1_500 guyb4b96eb72abda1540deef973d7f40ddde7 0b261521082eb725d2f4e4253797e7b2guybourdin-07

2. PUTTING THE MODELS IN THE SHADOWS:
1472  1470 5e43fa57ed3c857938266ca9011f66fbScan10090 9480624df6fc9dc40e90ed141a8e2d17 Charles-Jourdan-Shoe-Ad-Vogue-March-1978

3. MASSIVE CLOSE UPS OF THE SHOE IN ACTION:
MX-2610N_20121017_151436_0029cf3612ff33f3d2de38834baec8710f4b03a4ff92d1e8384788377a7a086704142689d107e107f20d0982dde3adebfa3f9f2501c99c17688bd346f879ef2fae8guy-bourdin-charles-jourdan-dff89a2d05dbb4e2a92fc3de5578696e9

4. SEPARATE THE SHOE FROM THE MODEL:
VogueParis0967GuyBourdinphoto-guy-bourdin-charles-jourdan-summer-1974 Microsoft Word - Document22
MX-2610N_20120921_115955_003

5. GET THE MODEL TO LOOK ANYWHERE BUT INTO THE CAMERA:
de91a54213f1eb117f66b503527360ab b2a73e5350a2921a9d9e498413e0677f 640a286ade2d9a307e5a6bfba93bb24a photo-guy-bourdin-charles-jourdan-automn-1978 Bourdin11470 VogueParis1972GuyBourdin bourdin_guyMX-2600N_20111101_134834_0015123513b3efdc68957d878f1050b25c1 2500-2000-d_1973_0598_0000_003

6. PUT THINGS IN FRONT OF THE MODELS:
8cb8bc58733443e316036a49d76111f340264-charles-jourdan-shoes-1973-photo-guy-bourdin-hprints-com7d6b20b489f3af36c924b5763c90c403 b518014eb2325a20fc912e436ba1b303 b61657df02e4f87a265092da8b4eccd852b9953efee0eea2153f51b1cc5c42481a2b6240a58cc429676d77767c1ea751
telephone
guy-bourdin-charles-jourdan-advertisement-1975 20090410_bourdin_cadillac (118) fbc91e62a9c46c312105c3215bb0ca55 charles-jourdan-autumn-1975-photo-guy-bourdin 7d6b20b489f3af36c924b5763c90c403 5f3f8a931cb646cbf0c118df67fa5252

7. EVERYTHING BUT THE SHOES ARE OUT OF FOCUS:
bourdin-sd-charles-jourdan-fb

8. CUT FROM THE MODEL BING TOO SMALL TO SEE TO BEING TOO BIG TO SEE:
MX-2600N_20120302_104449_001 Screen shot 2014-03-25 at 00.50.4740265-charles-jourdan-shoes-1973-photo-guy-bourdin-hprints-com 08a9728d241dadb177b07db68587fe57

9. CHOP THE MODEL’S LEGS OFF:
(Well, just using the relevant, dismembered bit of a mannequins leg to stick the shoe on.)84329b0aa69e05927a64549fe4f2e769GuyBourdin-CharlesJourdan-2 GuyBourdin-CharlesJourdan-12 GuyBourdin-CharlesJourdan-11 IMG_1241 GuyBourdin-CharlesJourdan-10 image25011 ffe2d381fa49cf6c3d01296f85a2cd54 9bee5b9137b007c7dbf66b0e2dfc9e92

10. NO MODEL:
8117-large 

  Scan10091photo-guy-bourdin-charles-jourdan-summer-1974-b1973Auction-For-Charles-Jourdan-Spring-1975-600x400

From todays perspective, we could debate whether some of the pictures are sexist, misogynistic or just plain wrong.
But what isn’t debatable is that they transformed a little French shoe manufacturers into one of the coolest brands of the seventies and changed fashion photography.

BourdinSelfportrait1950-1009x1024
(Geek link: http://www.pinterest.com/davedye/guy-bourdin/)

N.b. I don’t know the chronology of these ads.
I’m certain it’s not how I’ve shown them.
I wanted to segment them in this way to show how one man kept reinventing the idea of the ‘shoe shot’.
So all you chronology freaks, hold off on the comments.

14 thoughts on “Avoid the face.

  1. I’ve just got back from the D&AD press jury…sadly there’s nothing there that comes close to this stuff.

  2. Pingback: Less face. More grott | Huzzahsarah's Blog

  3. Ah, when ART Directors roamed the earth, life was way more interesting. And Guy Bourdin the photographer was definitely an ART Director.
    Great post. Really enjoyed it. Thanks.

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