Horst P. Horst
Horst P. Horst was a pioneer of the genre now known as classic fashion photography. He produced outstanding, elegant work that made him one of the most influential fashion photographers of the mid-20th century.
Born Horst Paul Albert Bohrmann, in 1906 in Germany, Horst studied architecture early on. He apprenticed with Le Corbusier in Paris and learned how to construct a picture plane, using the tenets of architectural practice like precision and calculation. While in Paris, he turned from architecture to photography, which he learned from George Hoyningen-Huene, a fashion photographer working for Vogue. This training carried over into his photographs resulting in Horst’s sessions sometimes lasting for days as he searched for the right blend of light and shadow. Hoyningen-Huene further sharpened his vision and mentored him. By 1931, Horst was shooting for French Vogue and then British Vogue in 1932, thanks to art director Mehemed Agha. He incorporated the influence that modernism and surrealism had on the art world into his photographs. Horst photographed such celebrities as Greta Garbo, Coco Chanel, Joan Crawford, and Katherine Hepburn. He made a large body of iconic fashion photography.
In 1939, Horst made one of his most famous works, Mainboucher Corset. Shot the night he fled Europe at the invasion of the German army into France. This photograph, the back of a woman wearing an unraveling corset, is representative of the elegance and fragility of beauty in the face of destruction. That same year he moved to the United States and became a citizen changing his name to Horst P. Horst. He struggled to find work until he was hired by American Vogue. He soon was immersed in the world of the New York glitterati, and, along with his fashion work, he became acclaimed for his portraits of the powerful and the famous.
Horst published several books, including Photographs of a Decade (1945,) Patterns from Nature (1946,) and Salute to the Thirties, with Hoyningen-Huene (1971). Contemporaries Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, and Helmut Newton have all learned from Horst. His work continues to resonate with photographers and viewers alike to this day. He would continue to work at Vogue and for many other magazines, including Life. His Life cover of 1980 was the most popular of the year. To this day, significant retrospectives are still held celebrating his influential work.
SELECTED MUSEUM COLLECTIONS:
• Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK
• National Portrait Gallery, London, UK
• International Center of Photography, NY, US
• Fortuny Palace, Venice, IT
• The Louvre, Paris, FR