Bourdin's photographs are often richly sensual but also rely heavily on provocation and ability to shock. Additionally integrating erotic, surreal, sinister components— Bourdin configured a whole new visual vocabulary with which to associate the goods of haute-couture. The narratives were strange and mysterious, often plainly exhibiting violence and graphic sexuality.
Evident through astute reading of his compositional and thematic presentation, Bourdin's profited from the influence of a diverse collection of contemporaries: first and foremost, his mentor Man Ray, Also the photographer Edward Weston, surrealist painters Magritte and Balthus, and Spanish surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel.
Although less of a commercial success (and perhaps less aesthetically ambitious) than his colleague at Vogue, Newton, the legacy of Bourdin's images has had an equally profound impact on younger generations of fashion photographers up to the present day.