Horst: Photographer of Style - Victoria and Albert Museum:
Just a short review of this exhibition which I enjoyed greatly – the link above describes it much better than I can.From the outset it is clear that Horst is a photographer in complete control of his medium. As there are no diagrams it’s difficult to be sure but he seems to have used quite simple lighting setups to highlight form and texture n the many different fashion designs on display – it is also quite striking that his technique stood him in good stead for the development of colour photography, although I do perhaps wonder how much of the finished product was down to the teams with which he worked. Clearly the readership of Vogue for most of Horst’s working life had a thing for classical illusion as many of the props were almost classical pastiche. A similar influence can be seen in his nude work – male and female – I couldn’t help wondering if some of his work had not had some influence on Mapplethorpe.
His use of colour was an object lesson for the rest of us – he seemed to possess a knack for just the right area of contrasting colours to get the perfect balance, for example. He also used some surrealist influences to give an edgy feel to some of his more tricky subjects – such as nail varnishes and lipsticks. Altogether I felt that, while the subjects inevitably date a bit – its fashion photography after all is said and done – that accompanied by the right typefaces and layouts his colour images in particular images would look quite contemporary.
There were some examples of his travel, still life and nature photography on display as well. Unsurprisingly these too tended to reflect his preference for clearly delineated form – at no stage did you pick up any sense of an agenda from these images – they simply reflect a great photographer doing what he did best. Which perhaps begs the question: “Is this art or craft?” I’m not sure – I’m not even sure it matters.
I’ll probably pop some prints of what I thought of as the standouts in my written log. As documents of a lifestyle unachievable by most they’re fascinating, as examples of a master at work I thought they were pretty much unbeatable.