If you’re looking for a comprehensive insight into the style and glamour of the 20th century then nothing will satisfy your thirst more than the Horst: Photographer of Style exhibition at the V&A. Running from now until January 4th, this beautifully crafted and somewhat enchanting insight into the world of Horst P. Horst takes you through the life of a gifted shutterbug’s 60 plus years in the industry – a career beginning and ending with Vogue.
Shooting over 90 covers for the elusive fashion bible in his time (many of which are on display here) you’ll be privy not only to Horst’s undeniable eye for fashion but also his keen sense of exploration and imagination in the field. From his surrealist period, cataloguing continued collaborations with both Salvadore Dali and Elsa Schiaparelli, through to the many stars of the screen and stage that stood before his lens – the likes of Joan Crawford and Bette Davis included – it is perhaps his lesser known work that really draws the eye.
A series of open, vulnerable and achingly honest prints capture his travels throughout the Middle East, including a powerful documentation of the annual migration of the nomad Qashqai clan. A fascinating look into a secret and secluded world. Just across the way, expect detailed studies of Mother Nature’s finest forms – a kaleidoscopic collage of flora, minerals and shells. To finish, hidden around the corner in the final room, is an unexpected gem: Horst’s distinguished look at the male nude – a series of black and white prints all dramatically lit to accentuate the musculature of the male form.
With light being Horst’s most powerful and enigmatic tool, curator Susanna Brown was keen to utilise this medium in a way that would pay tribute to his skilled hand, creating rooms bathed in darkness with spotlights of carefully focused beams. But the advent of colour in the 1930s allows for a shot of pigmented grandeur with a selection of 25 playful, vivid and truly feminine photographs to take in, aptly demonstrating his exceptional skill as a colourist. The beauty of this exhibition is the inclusion of the unexpected. You go for the fashion, but are treated to a whole different side to Horst, a side that was hidden and expressive in a completely unforeseen way. Prepare to be surprised.
Written by Emma Bailey. Images © V&A.