Today we have got another entry in our masters of photography series for you. The Masters of Photography series looks at the life and work of some of the 20th century’s most important photographers.
Today we will be taking a look at the work of Horst P. Horst, one of the most famed fashion photographers of the 20th century.
Horst Paul Albert Bohrmann was born in Germany in 1906. He became interested in the arts at an early age when he met the dancer, Evan Weidemann at a relative’s house. Horst studied avant-garde art in Hamburg before moving to Paris in 1930, where he would go on to meet Baron George Hoyningen-Huene who introduced Horst to photography. The two also became lovers, and on a visit to England, they met the British editor of Vogue magazine, which began Horst’s career as a fashion photographer.
Horst captured his images on a large format camera, which produced much more detailed images. Many of his early fashion images have an otherworldly quality as a result of his use of light and backgrounds. His models would often be set against infinite backgrounds or backdrops that seemed to blend together which when combined with the strong light on the subjects, made them appear ethereal.
Perhaps the best example of the otherworldly quality his early work possessed is The Mainbocher Corset. In this image, the subject sits with her back facing the camera, her face obscured, and her lower half covered by what she is sitting on.
The way the background and subject are lit almost gives the impression that she is sitting on a ledge and looking out over an endless sky.
Horst’s later fashion work in the 1960’s took full advantage of the advances in colour photography and his images would often be composed to have a monotone or dull background, with a vibrant pop of colour on the model to draw the eye.
Horst’s masterful use of light, as well as his ability to get just the right pose from his models, made him the perfect photographer for the surrealism movement as it grew in popularity during the 1930s.
Like many surrealists, Horst captured many images exploring the feminine form, and many of his images obscured the faces of his subjects, which creates an unease to contrast the beauty of the clothing and poses.
Horst’s work with magazines such as Vogue brought him to the attention of Hollywood, and he began to capture images of cinema stars such as Bette Davis.
Horst P. Horst remained active in photography throughout his life, still working with high-profile clients well into his eighties. In 1991 he photographed Princess Michael of Kent wearing her mother, Princess Marina’s tiara, which Horst had photographed being worn by Marina in 1934.
Horst’s use of light, composition, and colour choice continues to inspire new and existing fashion photographers even to this day.