Horst P. Horst: The Legend

“I like taking photographs, because I like life. And I love photographing people best of all, because most of all I love humanity.”- Horst P. Horst

Text: Kris Desipri


As one of the old masters of fashion photography, Horst captured as well as defined the glamour of the interwar years, when he first became famous for his dramatic portraits of the Parisian beau monde, of which he was a key member and participant observer.

Horst P. Horst by Cecil Beaton, Vogue 1948

There was little distinction between work and life. “We never thought of it as fashion when I was in Paris… It was l’elegance, the way we lived”, he told The New York Times in 1991. Despite the fact that he was born in Germany, he was nationless by temperament, Horst Paul Albert Bohrmann chose to photograph international high society under the name of Horst P. Horst. That name would come to be virtually synonymous with one magazine: Vogue, for which he worked for 60 years.
Horst created new techniques of lighting that were three dimensional and dramatic. He placed light sources above and diagonal to the model to slant a pattern of light downward across each side of her figure. This created dramatically accented shots.
Horst felt that the main problem for a studio photographer is that nearly everyone is camera-shy.

Helen Bennett, 1939

Many artists had taken the path of fashion and surrealism. Horst did not contribute very much to this movement, but he did share the movement’s aesthetics. He did an ad for Cartier jewelry in which he says he consciously composed it in a surrealistic way, but this was one of the few times he did this.

Helen Bennett

Another art movement of this time was abstract expressionism, which lead on to surrealism with its emphasis being spontaneous, automatic, or subconscious creation.

Vogue covers, 1939

Mainbocher Corset, 1939

Lisa with harp 1939, Lisa on silk hand on torso 1940

Studio Photography

Gene Tierney, 1940

Chanel Beauty, 1987 

Yves Saint Laurent in a garden, 1986