About photobooks – old and new.
Title: Sighs, Whispers for Bloomingdale’s
Author: Guy Bourdin
Published by Bloomingdale’s in 1976
8vo: 36 color photographs, wrappers illustrated with photographs, unpaginated.
Bloomingdale’s commissioned the Parisian photographer Guy Bourdin to shoot their lingerie catalogue, which resulted in this highly collectible “photobook” – Sighs, Whispers for Bloomingdale’s.
This catalogue was elevated to the rank of photobook for several raisons. First, Bourdin was one of the most creative fashion photographers of all times with a very distinctive style. Sighs and Whispers are an excellent example of Bourdin’s surrealistic compositions with vibrant and dense colors, accentuating the erotic and provocative style of his photographs.
Second, Sighs and Whispers for Bloomingdale’s is the only publication, even though a thin catalogue, in which Bourdin had full creative control. Bourdin didn’t publish any book during his lifetime, besides publishing in fashion magazines – in particular Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, for which he worked for from 1955 until 1987.
Third, Sighs and Whispers is a more than a simple fashion catalogue – it is an artistic publication. Bloomingdales gave Bourdin complete creative freedom and never saw a single picture until the day the photographer left back to France. He had very specific demands and took him about one month to complete the project. He started with 65 of New York’s top models, who were all dismissed under the pretext that there were not beautiful enough. Bourdin decided to find himself six unknown models. He was so meticulous that a single picture such as the model flying through the air into bed and her lover’s arms was reshot so many times until the girl fainted. The result was astonishing and the catalogue a piece of art. The New York Post described it at that time as an “ambiguous vignettes, suggestive of je ne sais quoi – smoldering-satin-eroticism, triple-bedded double entendres, Stepford wifery, Bergman heavy breathing and Story-of-O-isms.”