FRANK HORVAT: PLEASE DON’T SMILE
Frank Horvat came from a photojournalist background and shot fashion with a unique, fresh, and spontaneous style. When most fashion photographs were taken in very controlled environments with indoor settings, heavy equipment, slow film, and theatrical lighting, Frank Horvat rejected all of this and used daylight, a hand-held camera, and his shooting was more spontaneous and seldom scripted by art directors.
Frank Horvat was born in Italy in 1928. Although he began his career with the desire of becoming a writer, he started taking photographs at the age of fifteen with a 35mm Retinamat camera; He sold his stamp collection to buy his first camera. In 1947, he moved to Milan to study art and by 1950, he was already working for Italian fashion magazines. Horvat would subsequently travel to Paris where he would meet Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson; he would be coached by Cartier-Bresson in the importance of composition. Later, he would travel to Pakistan and India as a free-lance photographer, developing the dynamic reportage style he used in fashion that challenged the studio-based fashion shoots of the era.
Horvat’s photography is also influenced by the French Humanists; in a post-war era that had seen long lasting tragedy and suffering, images that captured the simple and fortuitous joys of life became much more relevant and captivating. For Frank Horvat, this was possible through his explorations of the “miracles” in everyday life. The possibility of capturing these “miracles” as he refers to them, came through observation and chance:
“Photography is the art of not pushing the button… what I don’t photograph kind of accumulates in me like a desire to photograph. So not pressing the button means, accumulating some energy or some desire, which is unspent, and which may come up next time.” The philosophy behind his working methods focused on achieving a sincere approach to photography. Horvat’s travels and upbringing inspired this yearning for a basic understanding of “truth” and a desire to create images using different languages; For Horvat, this is expressed through a variety of cameras, projects, and perspectives.
“I would say that the truth is a very important question to me. But truth in photography is just as elsewhere, it’s not a mechanical truth. The truth is in fact, that the witness believes what he is witnessing […] there’s no machine to witness the truth.”
The empathic quality of Horvat’s photography speaks to the “truth” that he focuses on. Horvat’s work, whether for fashion or the artist’s personal projects, has a basis in capturing coincidental moments or the unpredictable, sharing a sense of the unforeseeable. The “miracles” caught in Horvat’s work add a credibility to his images that are thus universally understood. Horvat’s images encourage the viewer to distinguish intuitively the genuine moments captured in the photographs, forgetting about time and place while focusing on the enduring beauty of the world.