A Celebrated Pioneer of Fashion Photography
During the late 1950s, Frank Horvat became a celebrated pioneer of fashion photography by challenging studio-based fashion shoots’ stale conventions. He photographed the city’s dynamic energy, placing his models in real-life situations, combining realism and artifice. This journalistic kind of fashion photography profoundly influenced the genre, and he would have many followers. Horvat would continue to photograph aspects of cities and urban life persisting in the style and subject matter that first brought him to the medium. Although he was well known for the innovative fashion images he was producing, Horvat is now known as an exceptional street photographer.
From London to Milan to Paris
Before settling in Paris in 1955 at the age of 27, Horvat lived in various locations. These included cities such as London and Milan while also traveling to such places as Pakistan and India. During an interview with the artist, we asked how he thought these experiences shaped his artistic outlook in general and interest in photography specifically? Horvat answered:
“I wouldn’t say that the places shaped my outlook: but that my outlook shaped the way I photographed those places.” – Frank Horvat.
Paris, Gare Saint-Lazare
He moved to Paris in 1955. From the beginning, he became fascinated with its urban activity and its diverse facets, chartering the city’s urban life from the 1950’s onward. The exceptional image “Paris, Gare Saint-Lazare” shot in 1959 presents the hustle and bustle of Paris that so intrigued Horvat.
French magazine, Réalités, commissioned “Paris, Gare Saint-Lazare.” This magazine was considered by many at the time to be the world’s most influential monthly illustrated magazine. Rising from an assignment regarding Paris’s sprawling suburbs, Horvat felt compelled to photograph Saint-Lazare as the most crucial commuter station.
Using a Leica camera with a telephoto lens on a tripod, Horvat took several thirty-second exposures. He shot this way so that the architecture and some people would be still, and the moving crowd would blur. Using this technique, Horvat underscores physical movement. The transient nature of the environment and the moments spent within it. Some of the crowd at the bustling station seem to have stopped themselves in time. Standing still in the sea of movement that energizes the space. It is a prime example of understanding how the camera sees movement and action entirely differently than the eye. The compression of time and space finds a beautiful visual equivalent in this memorable image.
Horvat “rediscovered” the image itself almost thirty years after capturing it. Now it is regarded as one of his most extraordinary photographs that uniquely captures the feeling of a time and a place.
Frank Horvat was cosmopolitan, spoke five languages, and had total independence with his picture-making. He never looked back and was as happy to use his camera as a way to explore his understanding of the world of fashion and style as he was to chronicle the daily world around him. He seemed light years ahead in creating exciting and uncharacteristically beautiful photographs. In 2020, the photographer passed away at the age of 92. He leaves an indelible photographic legacy.