Horst P Horst




Celebrated German fashion photographer Horst P. Horst, born Horst Paul Albert Bohrmann, was a master of light and composition, best known for his work for Vogue magazine.

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Early Life

Horst was born in Weißenfels-an-der-Saale, East Germany, on 14 August 1906 the son of a prosperous shop owner. Not wanting to be confused with the Nazi official, Martin Bormann, in 1943 he later legally changed his name to Horst P Horst. Horst developed a love for avant-garde art and design at an early age, and left the Kunstgewerbeschule in Hamburg to become an apprentice of the architect, Le Corbusier, in Paris.

Photographic Career

There, Horst met the photographer, George Hoyningen-Huene, who sparked his own interest in the subject. Through Hoyningen-Huene, Horst was introduced to many artists, including the photographer, Cecil Beaton; the interior designer, Jean-Michael Frank; a The New Yorker writer, Janet Flanner; and the designer, Coco Chanel. By the mid 1930s, Horst had superseded his mentor Hoyningen-Huene as French Vogue‘s primary photographer. His images frequently appeared in the French, British and American editions of the magazine.

In the 1930s Horst experimented with Surrealism, and his photographs of the period are mysterious and whimsical. In this period he also photographed the Surreal dress designs of his friend Elsa Schiaparelli and began his working relationship with celebrated Surrealist Salvador Dalí. Horst would go on to work closely with Dalí, creating hybrid works for The Dream of Venus and documenting Dalí’s costume designs in his own recognisable photographic style.

Horst was a perfectionist who raised the standards of fashion photography, and indeed helped to define it. His study of Greek sculpture and Classical painting often informed his compositions, and he was a meticulous photographic technician. Horst’s experimentations with radical and Surrealist compositions, as well as avant-garde techniques such as double exposures, produces some of the most iconic fashion images ever.

Mainbocher Corset

Horst’s most iconic photograph is Mainbocher Corset, taken in 1939. Mainbocher Corset has gone on to inspire numerous photographers and fashion designers. It was taken at Vogue Studios, Paris, in 1939 on the eve of the Second World War. Indeed, Horst left the next morning for Le Havre to escape the impending conflict. Horst emigrated to the United States, where he started work for American Vogue, for which he would work for the rest of his life.

Later Life

When fashion photography changed its tone during the 1960s, his work fell out of popular favour. However, his strong style and sense of drama led him to continue to find work, shooting advertisements for different fashion houses. Pop icon, Madonna, propelled Horst to superstardom when she based her music video for Vogue on Horst’s most iconic fashion photograph, Mainbocher Corset.

Horst died at the age of 93, on 18 November 1999, at his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.