One of the earliest ads I can remember liking:
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 that bum was shot by the late, great Guy Bourdin.
Arguably, Bourdin is 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 the thirty six year old Bourdin.
He accepted but insisted on absolute control, Francine reassured Roland, ‘‘Don’t worry, you won’t be married, you could always change photographer.’’
Reassured, Roland went ahead, it turned into a seventeen year ‘marriage’, (from 1964-1981), during that time Roland never turned down a single picture.
It took a lot of courage, the pictures weren’t like those in other fashion ads, rather than classy, sophisticated and aspirational, they could be dark, seedy and dangerous.
The shoes were presentedas fetishistic objects of desire, or as some bod at the time put it; ‘They rejected the the traditional product shot in favour of atmospheric, often surreal tableaux and suggestions of narrative.’
The collaboration started innocently enough with these, very sixties, graphic style ads.As Roland starts to trust Guy the ads get more ambitious, models start to be represented rather than shown:
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.
6. PUT THINGS IN FRONT OF THE MODELS:
7. EVERYTHING BUT THE SHOES ARE OUT OF FOCUS:
9. CHOP THE MODEL’S LEGS OFF:
(Well, just using the relevant, dismembered bit of a mannequins leg to stick the shoe on.)
10. NO MODEL:
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.
(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, but 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.