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, this Bloomingdale’s catalogue is a master piece. 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.” According to rumors, Bourdin’s demands for the shoot were extreme, and Bloomingdales promised him complete creative freedom. He started with 65 of New York’s top models and asked them to strip naked, after what Bourdin dismissed them all under the pretext that there were no beautiful enough. He decided to find himself six unknowns, with whom the shooting lasted a month. Bourdin was so meticulous that the picture of a model flying through the air into bed and her lover’s arms was reshot so many times that the girl fainted. The store never saw a single picture until the day Bourdin left. However, the result was astonishing and the catalogue a piece of art.
Third, Bourdin didn’t publish any book during his lifetime, besides publishing in fashion magazines. He worked for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar from 1955 until 1987.
Thus, Sighs and Whispers for Bloomingdale’s is the only publication, even though a thin catalogue, in which Bourdin had full creative control.