As with so many photographers, it was Henri Cartier-Bresson – whom Horvat greatly admired – who gave him a piece of advice that would be decisive for the future of his career: work with a Leica. The year was 1950, and it became the moment in which Horvat’s career really took off. Working as a freelance photojournalist, he started out by travelling to India for two years. The black and white motifs he captured there caused a sensation, and his participation in Edward Steichen’s legendary Family of Man exhibition, further increased his success. Over the following years, the now Paris-based photographer evolved from reportage work, to become one of the greatest fashion photographers of his time. His experience as a photojournalist played a decisive role in the unusual style he introduced into a fashion photography what was still very conservative. He always managed to surprise the viewer with his images, which aligned perfectly with the maxim of Harper’s Bazaar magazine’s Art Director, Alexey Brodovitch: Horvat would take the models out onto the streets, into the Metro, to the race tracks, onto the rooftops of Paris, producing stunning motifs of a kind never seen before, and that still delight us to this day. His work has appeared in every international fashion magazine, and many of the pictures he captured with timeless elegance, have become iconic fashion and lifestyle images.
Over the decades, Horvat’s work continued to write exciting new chapters in the history of photography. Though well advanced in age, he continued to be active, experimenting with new digital possibilities, while also re-interpreting his early work. The many exhibitions and numerous photo books over the years, bear testimony to the photographer’s apparently limitless creativity.
Horvat was born on April 28, 1928 in Abbazia, Italy (today Opatija in Croatia). He began to teach himself photography at the end of the forties, then moved to Paris in 1955, where he lived until he passed away last Wednesday, surrounded by his family.
Horvat continued photographing and documenting his life up until the end, planning further exhibitions for the coming months – in Moscow, among other places. The Maison de la Photographie Robert Doisneau in Gentilly is currently exhibiting pictures he took Paris in the fifties. They remain on display up until January 10, 2021. (Ulrich Rüter)
Horvat was featured as a Leica Classic in issue 5/2015
of the LFI magazine.
All images on this page: © Frank Horvat