“Horst was the Mario Testino of his day,” writes Anna Wintour. “If you were faintly royal, or had social connections, having your photograph taken by Horst really meant something. He made everyone look beautiful and flawless and alluring.”
And so begins this month’s release Horst: Photographer of Style, a magnum opus celebrating the revered fashion photographer which coincides with a buzzy exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum. In the release, the Vogue editrix reflects on her friendship with the man with the singular name, a Madonna or Beyoncé of fashion photography who came to acclaim in 1930s Paris when the City of Lights was the epicenter of the style universe and magazines were transitioning away from graphic illustrations and into the era of the model. Horst was simply known as Horst, because few could compete with his imagery or his famous friendships.
“Horst’s relationships with Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Baron George Hoyningen-Huene, who was a photographer for Vogue, helped to put him on the map,” says Brittany Gersh, Senior Fine Art Specialist. “However, his ability to meld the avant-garde and commercial worlds allowed him to achieve status as one of the foremost photographers of the 20th century.”
His 60-year career was built on a signature style all Horst’s own: captivating, glamorous images which incorporated chiaroscuro effects. “Horst’s style was unique in that his photographs were staged,” says Gersh. “He used artificial light to create a dramatic aura, so that shadow and light play off the organic forms in his compositions. He often shot at night, as that was the only time that the pieces he was shooting were not in a show or at an appointment, which added to the intrigue.”
This aesthetic is a recurring theme throughout the new book. From the Mainbocher Corset — “the most seminal photograph from his career,” says Gersh — to glamorous images of Old Hollywood to the gorgeous interiors he shot for House & Garden featuring Karl Lagerfeld’s 1974 Paris apartment and Valentino’s penthouse in Rome, it’s a journey through a body of work unlike any other. Some may see it as coffee table reading, a stylish tome filled with visual eye candy, but for those who wish to dig deeper, it’s also a substantive look at a man who paved the way for the likes of Patrick Demarchelier, Bruce Weber and Annie Leibovitz — a man who elevated fashion photography to art.
Want to purchase your own Horst work of art? Shop Horst pieces at The RealReal.
Horst: Photographer of Style opens at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London on September 6, 2014 and runs until January 4, 2015. Travel Partner American Airlines. For more information please visit www.vam.ac.uk/horst.