Guy Bourdin was a french fashion photographer who had great success in the 1970s. He created a style of imagery that effectively captured a surreal quality partly due to the hyper-real colour pallette that he used, but also through his use of front to back depth of field. Literally everything is in focus and this permits the eye to take in a lot of detail in the image.
“Deep focus give the eye autonomy to roam over the picture space so that the viewer is at leat given the opportunity to edit the scene himself, to select the aspects of it to which he will attend.” – Bazin (1948) quoted in Thompson & Bordwell, 2007
In some of his images, the depth of the image is limited by a close background so the deep focus is compressed by a shallow image stage, in others the there is a deeper image as the background is further away, but we often uses props to create the effect of a theatre stage backdrop or series of backdrops so there isn’t a natural gradual receding background but rather a number of staged, parallel backdrops, each further away from the previous providing a discrete stepping of distance rather an analogue recession. This creates an unusual sense of drama in his images, a sense of other worldliness that transcends our every day experience of the world as we usually perceive it. This use of deep focus, colour and staged background makes his images both compelling and unsettling to view. He almost anticipates the digital age, though he died, in 1991 well before its advent.
Below is a photograph I took using deep focus and a slightly surreal image of a phone box on a beach. It was a hot summer and the colours are strong which gives an edgy feel enhanced by the deep focus. I use a Nikon D70 with a 50mm f1.4 lens at f13. I could not find anything comparable with people in my personal archive.
- Guy Bourdin courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery at https://www.michaelhoppengallery.com/artists/30-guy-bourdin/overview/#/artworks/10379 – accessed February 2018
- Mark Owen-Ward (2010)
Bloomfield, R (2014) Photography 1: Expressing your Vision., OCA 2017, pp.48-51