By the age of 17, Nicolle Meyer – Model, Musician and Artist – was discovered by the creative director of Vogue Paris and art photographer Guy Bourdin. She played an important role and became his muse within his most iconic images. Nicolle speaks about this special relationship between muse and genius mastermind.

Nicole, what was your first experience with Guy?

I was very young, just 17 and got invited to my first go-see with him. I had no published images and he was very sweet and took his time and looked at my portfolio carefully — which was not always the case. He also wanted to see my ID card, to check my zodiac sign, which I found out later. Guy wanted to getting to me know better before he started to work with me.

© Guy Bourdin Fondation

Guy always thought outside of the box. Especially at that time, when you were working with him. Did you thought his approach was rather genius or psychotic?

First of all, what defines the box? (she laughs)  And for me he was a true artist, in every sense. He was using the magazine as his canvas. Within that he could reach a huge amount of people in the public. At this time art photography didn’t had the same context as it has now, as a recognizable art form.  And it would have been much harder to reach such an audience, if he would have considered himself just as an art photographer in a little gallery.

So he pushed boundaries?

He did. And coming back to your question: I would definitely say he was a genius. But he never had to fight for it at Vogue Paris, they gave him a „carte blanche“ to bring a kind of fine art photography to the magazine.

The first shoot with him was for the Vogue Paris. How did you feel seeing the results?

My first shoot was a rain coat story line and it was so much fun and exciting, shooting it. But when I saw the images he took, I was a bit taken back.

How did you react on that? 

I was a little bit: „Oh no“. (she laughs) You always have these projection in your head. I was thinking I would see myself very glamorous, but then there was water all over me and you couldn’t really see my face. Just parts of my body. But I knew he was kinda testing me and my reaction

© Guy Boudin Foundation

So he was teasing you? 

I wrote that in the book, yes. I felt like he’s testing me. It was his way to figure out if I was the right partner to work with him. In the end it was so much fun working with him on his great visions. Towards the end I became much more visible in the images.

His images are very avant-garde, which meant that he expected his models to break personal boundaries. Did you ever suffer, while working with Bourdin?  

No, I didn’t. I came from a dance school, so I was aware of my body and what I could do. In the pre-digital age, it took a lot of work, time and thoughts to take a single image. And to be honest, I liked to do something which was challenging me. He never asked me to do something, I didn’t wanted to do. And I loved it!

At which point did you realize that you’d become his muse? 

I didn’t realized it until much later, when I was writing the book and the first articles and interviews came out. It was something that came more from a journalistic side, they actually started to call me „the muse“. Which felt weird for me, cause I never even thought about that during almost three years working with him. Surely it was a very intensive period and of course it was important for him, but for me it was just an amazing experience. Shirley (Bury, V&A museum) took a look through the archives for the first exhibition and started to write me emails about her view on his iconic images. At that point I realized, I do hold a special part in his work. I also stopped the fashion work very promptly and started my music career, after the time with Guy. 

© Guy Bourdin Foundation

A very private question, but the way you’re talking about him seems like you had a very close relationship to Guy. Was there some romantic feelings involved? 

(She laughs) It might seems strange but there was something paternal in terms of his feelings towards me. Which sounds odd, cause I think these are probably images I wouldn’t have shot with my father, but we never had a sexual relationship at all. We had a very big age difference and he was always very respectful and I was a young thing, you know. So friendship is this long stretch. I’ve never been on the same intellectual level with him at that time. He was sophisticated and cultural educated.

So you were inspired by him?

I was learning through him and when we finally met up again for the record cover shot, it was on a different level. I was older and married. It was just a few years down the line, but I had done more things, so that was a different relationship back then. He saw me as a friend, not just as somebody to work with. 

But you called him to do the cover for you album?

Yes, but I was honored and a bit nervous. I was excited to see and work with him again. I wanted to present my husband and the music, cause it was my creation. It was the other way around, so that was of course a big change.

You were obviously inspired by your husband too. You worked together and founded the New Wave band „Fred Banana Combo“?

He was the first who got me, when he said, that I wouldn’t get that far for myself if I continue working in the fashion business. That I had something else to do, creating my own music and so on. That somehow rang my bell, cause he was very true to me. He encouraged me, within my dance background, in sense of rhythm, to develop that furthermore. But I wasn’t a musician, I didn’t play any instrument and I didn’t really sing at that time. 

But this is the interesting turn in your career. You closed your own circle, which started with dancing, modeling and then becoming a musician. Would you describe that as your personal artistic side? 

I don’t know. Even the modeling for Guy was artistic for me in a way, that I could express myself within his vision. It wasn’t just a straight forward modeling job, there was something more to it. But for sure, music is something where you can really express yourself and you put yourself more on the line, cause that’s what musicians do: they have to put themselves out there.

After we talked about your view as a musician, model and dancer, would you say every artist needs someone who supports them without any doubt?

Absolutely. Art is not made in capsule or in a vacuum. You want your art to be seen, you’re expressing yourself for a reason. In my case it was working with guy and later on with my husband, where I had this trust in my personal view. But in terms of guy, he needed us as models to achieve his vision. With me he could try out whatever he wanted to do. Sometimes you just have to try and error and see what happens.

Are we talking about Guy or you now, cause you tried a lot as well? Lately bought your own vinery.

(She laughs) I don’t know. But, to be honest yes. I guess I just have always seen the potential in people and opportunities. Like the vineyard in France. Why did I do that? Cause I was there, my Mom build her place there and I just fell in love with the place. But it’s always like that in life, if you see something and just want it, then do it. What could happen to you? Just go for it. 

Do you have any regrets? 

The only thing I can say for sure is, that I do regret that I haven’t continued modeling, which I really loved. But I experienced a lot other things instead. There’s always a price you have to pay.

The artistic struggle within the dream?

Yes. But life goes on and there’s always something new to discover. 

Alexandre Renaldy
Posted by:Alexandre Renaldy

Editor in Chief, Work: The Corner Berlin, flair magazine, H.O.M.E.; Signature Places, Vestiaire Collective, EVE images, B'SPOQUE magazine etc.

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