Posts Tagged ‘Horst P Horst’

Books | Horst, Photographer of Nature

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Photographic pattern, (unidentified)

Horst: Patterns from Nature
By Martin Barnes
Merrell Publishing
Hardback + jacket
104 pages
50 duotone illustrations

Its title deviating by only the replacement of an apostrophe and an s with a colon, a new publication Horst: Patterns from Nature focusses in on a little-know series of photographs, nine of which appeared in the final pages of the 1946 book, Horst’s Patterns from Nature, augmenting them with a large number of mainly previously unpublished works made around the same time. The book is an expanded version of an essay by distinguished author Martin Barnes that appears in the main catalogue for the current exhibition, Horst, Photographer of Style at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, edited by Susanna Brown, and as such complements the exhibition, while considerably widening our knowledge of the photographer, his methods, and the breadth of his oeuvre.

Photographic pattern, (Calladium)

Photographic pattern, (Xanthosoma Lindenii)

Barnes’ short introduction, succinctly places the esteemed German-born photographer, the former Horst Paul Albert Bohrmann (1906 >1999) – who later took the name Horst P Horst – into historical context. He provides us with an insight into how, starting out as an architectural draughtsman in Le Corbusier’s Paris office in 1930, taught photography by his lover, the great George Hoyningen-Huhené, Horst rose quickly to recognition and fame, becoming friends with Marlene Dietrich, Nöel Coward and Coco Chanel. Barnes describes how, Horst fled German conscription and was spirited away by Vogue to America, becoming a US citizen in 1943. Best known for his slick studio-lit fashion and beauty images – the sexy Mainbocher Corset (1939) perhaps the most well-known – there is evidence to suggest, Barnes explains, that Horst embraced natural light and organic forms towards the end of World War II, as a way of associating himself with such untainted pre-war German cultural figures such as Johan Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 > 1832). Goethe’s definition of art: ‘Art is Nature seen through a temperament,’ is quoted by Alexander Lieberman, a Horst collaborator and art director of American Vogue from 1943 to 1962, in his blurb on the back flap of the dust jacket of the 1946 Patterns book. The front of this jacket is shown inside the new book, as well as a number of the double page spreads that appeared in it. For comparison, examples of work as they appears in books by other revered, early to mid-twentieth century photographers of nature are included, notably by Edward Weston, Paul Strand and German teacher and photographer, Karl Blossfeldt (1864 > 1932), who Horst acknowledged as an important influence.

Via repetition and mirroring techniques, and some influence from surrealism – Horst also collaborated with Salvador Dali – he pushed nature into the realms of semi-abstract pattern. Helpfully, by showing a succession of images – first the single original shot, then a group of four of these fitted together, the top ones a mirror image of those below, followed by a complete picture made up of sixteen images arranged on the same basic principles, Barnes demonstrates how the complete final images were made up. Some of these, in the run of plates, which make up over two thirds of the book’s content, are very graphic, while others are much softer, prettier, almost dream-like. Somewhat reminiscent of the images one sees in a kaleidoscope, but in square rather than circular format, not all of them are constructed solely from close-up shots of plants. For some the photographer has stepped back, thus changing scale in order to include, for instance, large palms trees, or palm fronds together with architectural details, or sections of a wicker chair.

Photographic pattern, (Prunus Pennsylvania Bark)

Photographic pattern, (Palm Trees)

Horst’s Kodak negative album of 1946, fits into the palm of the hand, and is reproduced at actual size in the new book, along with one of the negatives and a representative selection of the contact prints it contains. Barnes discovered that the negatives used to make the original large prints are not the same as those chosen for the construction of the complex patterned images that became the subject of the new publication. Ever the modernist, despite his respect for classical influences, Horst said of these: ‘[They] are photographs shown in simple repeat. The resulting patterns are immediately applicable to industrial fields, such as textiles, wallpaper, carpets, plastics, glass, ceramics, china, leather, bookbinding and jewellery.’ He went on to explain that they were also a demonstration of how modern design can be achieved through modern means. It’s possible that some of them may indeed have made it to a production line somewhere, but, so far, Barnes has been unable to uncover any evidence of this having happened.

Horst: Patterns from Nature is the end-result of inspired and painstaking investigative research by Martin Barnes, who, as it happens, is also Senior Curator of Photographs at the V&A. The images in this book are as surprising as they are beautiful. While the text in photography and art books can sometimes feel like unnecessary padding, here the writing is an integral and indispensable element of the package. Merrell Publishers are pretty choosy about what publishing projects they get involved in, and with obvious relish have gone to town on this slim volume’s production values, reproducing all of the images in exquisite quality duo-tone, spot-varnished on heavy matt coated paper.

All images from Horst: Patterns from Nature
All images © Conde Nast / Horst Estate

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Photography | Hollywood & Berlin in Detail

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Hollywood in Style: a homage to the icons of film
Camera Work, Berlin, Germany. Until 4th March, 2012
Robert Polidori
CWC Gallery, Berlin, Germany. Until 21st April, 2012

Based in the well-to-do Charlottenburg area of Berlin – one of the most galleried cities in the world – Camera Work is regarded as one of the world’s top 10 photography galleries. Named after the legendary, quarterly photographic journal published in New York by Alfred Stieglitz from 1903 to 1917, the gallery opened its doors in 1997 and has a well-earned reputation for presenting the work of many photography greats: Man Ray, Irving Penn, Peter Lindbergh, Peter Beard, Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus and Helmut Newton, but also for exhibiting young, up-and-coming artists.

The Kennedys archive, part of Camera Work’s permanent collection is a wide-ranging compilation of photographic work, official documents, private documents, and memorabilia of the Kennedy family. First put on show at the Camera Work building in 2004, it now has its own premises where, on the occasion of The 62nd Berlin International Film Biennale, Camera Work is exhibiting Hollywood in Style – much of the content also belonging to the gallery’s collection –  a photographic homage to the icons of film. Archive images by Edward Steichen and Horst P Horst that testify to the glamour of the screen legends of Hollywood’s Golden Age: Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly striking characteristicly elegant poses, are juxtaposed against more ballsy shots of 1950s bad boys James Dean and Marlon Brando. A sexy Sophia Lauren exemplifies the free spirit of 1960s movies; Jack Nicholson, the characterful 70s and 80s, while the distinctly sensual, provocative and style conscious stars of today: Angeline Jolie, Scarlett Johansson, Christian Bale and Johnny Depp, are captured by contemporary photographers: Nadev Kander, Annie Leibovitz and Anton Corbijn.

Emerging from the same stable, a second gallery CWC – Camera Work Contemporary, housed in a former Jewish girls’ school – opened last week in Berlin’s Mitte district, home to the city’s major internationally famous art galleries and will, alongside contemporary photography, exhibit large-scale retrospectives in painting and sculpture, as well as conceptual group exhibitions. As its debut, CWC presents Polidori, a major showing of the work – including some seen here for the first time – of the substantial oeuvre of the Canadian-born photographer, Robert Polidori, born in 1951, who lives in New York and Paris and has achieved international success via substantial photo stories in magazines such as The New Yorker, Architectural Digest, Geo and Vanity Fair. His work has been shown by numerous galleries and is also featured in the collections of several museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal and the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin. Famous for the extremely high level of detail in his photographs – literally nothing is left unsharp – the selected images, which on the surface appear as straightforward architectural and urban scenes – Gallery of the Battles, Chateau de Versailles, 1985 – Unit 4 Control Room, Chernobyl, 2001 – View of Central Park from the East, New York City, 2004 – possess the unnerving quality of drawing the viewer ever further in to examine and question each detail in turn and to puzzle endlessly over their relationship to one another and to the whole.

Images from top
Jeremy Irons with Monicle, London, 1990
© Michel Comte

Michel Anguir by Jacques D’Agar, 1675. Salle la Surintendance de Colbert,
Salles du XVII, Aile du Nord – RDC, Chateau de Versailles, 1984
© Robert Polidori

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Photography | Camera Works

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Sotheby’s New York, USA. Sale October 5th, 2011
Exhibition opens 30th September

Maybe you can’t afford to buy but if you are interested in 19th, 20th and 21st century collectable photography, many of the biggest names are here and Sotheby’s exhibitions are open to the public. Let’s start with fashion – Avedon, Horst, Penn. Peter Beard is also represented by his enormous and beautiful illustrated work: Maureen Gallagher and Late-Night Feeder (see below). A rare print of Diane Arbus’s disturbing portrait Viva is going under the hammer. Ansel Adams prints for sale include, among others: Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, and a mural of Leaves, Mt. Rainier National Park. There are works by Edward Weston, Paul Strand, Edward Outerbridge and Imogen Cunningham. Prints of two well-known images – Spectacles and The First Round (see above) – by French modernist Pierre Dubreuil are also in the auction. From earlier times there’s a massive print of Alexander Gardner’s portrait of Abraham Lincoln. In addition to the prints, a complete collection of Alfred Stieglitz’s famed quarterly, Camera Work, is up for sale.

Top. Lot 110 Estimate $150/250,000
Pierre Dubreuil The First Round. Circa 1932

Above. Lot 170 Estimate $120/180,000
Peter Beard Maureen Gallagher and Late-Night Feeder, 2:00am. 1987

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and anything else that interests me and I think might interest you

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