• Julia Sumzina

Horst P. Horst: an architect in photography

One of the iconic photographers of the XX century Horst Paul Albert Bohrmann who is known as Horst P. Horst was born on the 14 August 1906 in Weißenfels-an-der-Saale, Germany in the merchant family. After an encounter with dancer Evan Weidemann during his adolescent years, Horst became interested in avant-garde art. He began his studyings at Hamburg Kunstgewerbeschule, then left it in 1930 and went to Paris to continue learning under Le Corbusier, one of the most famous architects of XX century and the pioneers of modern architecture.


In Paris Horst met many people of art and became familiar with the leading figures of the fashion world. In 1930 he met Vogue photographer Baron George Hoyningen-Huene, in their relationships Horst became his photographic assistant and occasional model. In 1931, he began his own association with Vogue, publishing his first photograph in French Vogue in December of that year, and during about 60 years he worked for Vogue and Conde Nast.

Lisa: I love You, 1938

Horst directing fashion shoot with Lisa Fonssagrives, 1949

(Photo by Roy Stevens/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Classic Still Life, 1937


Many of his photos show the Horst’s fondness to architecture and special attention to lines and the geometry of shot. The play of light, typical for the 1930s’ fashion and portrait photography ‘chiaroscuro’ is characterized here also by clear shapes and the ‘building’ of image.

Hat and coat-dress by Bergdorf Goodman, modelled by Estrella Boissevain, 1938.

Mainbocher Corset (pink satin corset by Detolle), Horst P. Horst, Paris, 1939

Salvador Dalí’s costumes for Leonid Massine's ballet Bacchanale, 1939


Surrealist movement in it’s climax during the 1930-1940s affected on Horst despite his love to the ‘stage’ portrait. Many of his works of the beginning of his career in fashion industry are mysterious, strange in the mixture of surreal elements and typical for Horst classical style.

Marlene Dietrich, New York, 1942

Luchino Visconti, Paris, 1937

Luchino Visconti, 1935


His portraits are various: from the iconic studio works with celebrities and aristocrats to the examples like the famous shot of Luchino Visconti with a glass of drink, which shows the daily atmosphere of still life. The sense of the moment and movement is one of the striking traits in Horst’s creative look, whether it be a random moment or a well-directed one. His shot is full, it's dynamic with different details in it.


So, just have a look at the photos taken by this amazing artist during his long and productive life. Horst died in 1999 aged 93, while at home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, USA and his photos still look modern.

Susann Shaw, 1943

Round the Clock, New York, 1987

Muriel Maxwell, Ensemble by Sally Victor, Bag by Paul Lato, Sunglasses by Lugene, 1939


Text: Julia Sumzina

Photos: Condé Nast/Horst Estate, www.thephotogallery.se , open sources.

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