FlashBak: Historical Photographer – Horst P. Horst

Considered one of the most artistically significant and longest lasting fashion and portrait photographers in twentieth-century fashion, Horst P. Horst is a name that every photographer should know.  This man’s career spanned sixty years between 1931 and 1991, during which time he contributed much to the growth and popularity of fashion photography.  Many of his images are still inspiring designers, photographers, and artists today as he had a way of  capturing his subjects in a timeless manner.

Horst Paul Albert Bohrmann, Horst’s true name, was born on August 14, 1906 in present day Germany.  He came from a prosperous family who was the owner of a shop.  Horst had only one other sibling, an older brother.  He lived in Germany until finally moving to Paris in 1930 to then study his passion for the arts, specifically Avant-Garde.

Horst shot primarily in black and white, but also produced many colorful images.

The first big exposure that Horst had in the fashion industry was an advertisement that was put into the French Vogue in 1931, which featured a model holding a scent bottle.  It was not until 1932, however, that Horst really broke out into the portrait and fashion world.  The 1932 March issue of British Vogue included his work with the daughter of Sir James Dunn as well as three fashion studies.

During the 30’s and part of the 40’s Horst became extremely popular and in high demand for his beautiful photographic work and interesting surrealist inspiration.  He began producing images for many covers of fashion magazines such as Vogue.  His career was steaming forward with a bright future ahead of him.

This is probably Horst's most popular and respected images out of his entire collection. It is renown for its beauty, elegance, and slight sexual mystery.

This is probably Horst’s most popular and respected images out of his entire collection. It is renowned for its beauty, elegance, and slight sexual mystery.

Horst continued to produce work even through the tough times in the war such as the film Cover Girl (1944) in which he worked with the cast to produce covers of the film stars.  He eventually went on to explore more aspects photography as well playing with interior photography and home lifestyle photography.

Horst was given many opportunities to work with the stars, such as this photo of Marilyn Monroe.

Horst was given many opportunities to work with the stars, such as this photo of Marilyn Monroe.

I don’t want to go too in-depth with the history of Horst in this post, because much has been written about him already.  I want to focus now on how his works inspires me today and how we as photographers can still apply principles that he taught into our own work.  For more about the history of Horst P. Horst, please click here, or here!  Both are great sources for his life and success.

Something that inspires me so much about Horst is that all of him images just look stunning.  He not only captures the clothes on a model beautifully, but he makes everything look absolutely majestic.  He is able to make the viewer feel pretty and glamorous just by the attitude and feel of the models in the shot.  The images almost seem to exude confidence from themselves internally.

As with any professional fashion photographer, his use of lighting is impeccable and his composition in every image is flawless.  There always seems to be some sort of mystery in the models within each photograph, almost like they are withholding a secret from you.  Basically his images just make me feel something more.  They are more than just pretty images, they convey a sense of respect and success.

Modern photographers should all know who this man is and what kind of work he used to produce.  He lived until 1999, which means that he was around for a significant amount of time and watched the industry change substantially.  Yet his work, even through all of the changes, is timeless and beautiful regardless of era or opinion.

We as photographers must take this sense of confidence and emotion from Horst’s images and apply that same concept into our own photography.  We cannot just take a pretty picture with pretty lighting and pretty clothes and expect to become something extraordinary.  There are thousands of photographers in the world that claim to be fashion photographers, so what will help us stand out from the rest?  Passion, emotion, mystery, those are all things that Horst used in every image and what we must use as well.

I am extremely inspired by Horst P. Horst and his magnificent portfolio and I hope to find ways to apply his style into my own.  There is much to be learned from the past which is more than applicable to the future.




Please feel free to leave your thoughts on Horst’s work or even what I had to say about his life and history.  I would love feedback from my readers!  Art is all about collaboration and working together to find something greater.

Until next time, live your dreams and may passion never die!

Kirk