“Ode to…Frank Horvat” By Alicia Stirling-Julian
“I was lucky. In 1950 – aged 22 – I was a young man who had given up his dreams of becoming a writer or a painter, but without having acquired anything like a proper profession. By 1960, I had travelled for two years in Asia, as a photojournalist, lived and worked in Paris, London and New York, as a fashion photographer, and become reasonably well known in the small world of photography.” – Frank Horvat
1961, New York
As I research the remarkable and unconventional work of Frank Horvat, I find myself taken to that very moment in time that he sought to capture in all aspects of his work. I can close my eyes and envision walking the busy streets amongst hustling businessmen wearing an ostentatious Givenchy hat, or boasting my extravagant gown while having one too many with the fellas after their hard days work. His photojournalism, as well as his fashion photography, allowed us to travel with him on his journey and get to know the world through his creativity while forming our own interpretation and point of view. His works were ahead of their time to say the least. He was able to catch a subject and portray it accordingly, allowing the audience the opportunity to relate.
“My specialty remained ‘fashion in the streets’ – which didn’t mean that I always photographed outdoors, just that I tried to show women as you might imagine them in everyday situations.” – Frank Horvat
In a span of over seven decades, Frank has been, and still is, able to stay ahead of his art. He began photographing his subjects with an unorthodox approach such as dim lighting and overdeveloping. These methods set his work apart from the average. His innovation eventually led to developing his first Photo iPad app in 2011 called Horvatland. All this ingenuity before such ideas were even a twinkle in a hipster techie’s eye.
1961, New York
Frank extended the boundaries of fashion photography and was pivotal in the makeover of Vogue’s french fashion equivalent of the 40’s and 50’s, Jardin des Modes. I have never come across anyone using the word “surreal” when describing his work, but seeing as, Mr. Horvat prefers personal interpretations, I dare to use such a description. He often photographed his couture sheathed models in what we may perceive as candid moments, allowing the consumer to believe that they too can have an experience such as that.
When shooting in what was considered at the time, unique locations, Frank would seek for that “decisive moment”. An example of this was to make the model look “believable and therefore, lovable”. He would search for the perfect ray of sunlight or an odd angle that most would never consider. He sought out and perfected the different and unusual.
“Obviously, there cannot be a photograph without a subject, even if that subject is minimal. But what interests me is not so much the subject, as the way a photographer approaches it.” – Frank Horvat
What personifies beauty? Most often that is answered, ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. In the case of Frank Horvat, interest is in the eye of the beholder. The process in his work is not what one believes to be beautiful, but what one believes to be interesting, the very reason he was the perfect photographer for
the job when shooting “The Hitchcock Issue” of Vogue in 1974.
The photographer’s perspective has changed over the years. What started out for him as exploration has become retrospect and clarity. In 2015, The Helmut Newton Foundation opened Frank’s retrospective, “House with 15 keys”. The parallels of the two artists are apparent in that they both recognize and nurture a patron’s very personal perspective. In my view, one photograph by Frank Horvat can have 15 different meanings, or keys as he may refer to it. A complimentary exhibition shown along with Newton’s Permanent Loan Collection.
“In my case, getting curators and publishers to recognize my approach has been particularly difficult, because my photography is a ‘house with 15 keys’. This is why getting people to see my common denominator (or 15 common denominators) seems so important to me…” Frank Horvat
When I moved to Paris, in 1955, my reactions were the exact opposite of those to London. I was surrounded by references, to the point that they almost seemed too obvious. The steps of Montmartre, the kids brandishing their baguettes, the pre-war funfairs and the streetlamps in the mist could hardly fail to remind me of the French films of the 30’s and of the so-called humanist photographers that were inspired by them, though their romanticism wasn’t quite my cup of tea.
One can only naturally evolve over a span of 70 years. Aesthetic beauty once seemed a necessity in life, work, art and fashion. Thanks to artists such as Frank Horvat, his innovative achievements in the fusion of photography, art and technology, have clearly set the standard for pinnacles of interest…resulting in
the truly beautiful.