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Remembering Frank Horvat Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

23 October 2020

A paragon of French photography, Frank Horvat, passed away surrounded by his loved ones on Wednesday. He was 92.

In addition to the fashion photography he produced from the mid-1950s through the late 1980s, he worked in photojournalism, portraiture, landscape, nature photography and even sculpture. And in 2011, he produced Horvatland, an online review of his entire career.

"In almost 70 years of photography," he introduced Horvatland, "I had the time to photograph many different subjects, with at least a dozen different techniques. But that's almost beside the point. The point is that I had the time to play many different games. The hardest, as in the case of the present Web site, is to make this clear to the people who look at my work."

What is clear about Horvat's work is, as Francis Hodgson wrote, "what an eye he had." Hodgson compares his color work to that of Harry Gruyaert and Saul Leiter.

'Photography is the art of not pushing the button.'

He was born in 1928 in an Italian town called Abbazia, which is now known as Opatija in Croatia. His father was a physician and his mother a psychiatrist from Vienna, both Jews.

In his teens, he traded his stamp collection to acquire his first camera. He went on to study fine art at the Brera Academy in Milan.

In 1950, he met Henry Cartier-Bresson in Paris. Cartier-Bresson suggested Horvat work with a Leica 35mm and visit India. Horvat followed both pieces of advice, leading to his first success in photography, including participation in the ground-breaking exhibition "The Family of Man" at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

In the middle of that decade, Horvat was a photojournalist documenting post-war Paris before bringing a photojournalist's sensibilities to fashion photography.

He shot the first Givenchy fashion show and travelled to New York and London on commissions for Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and Elle.

He became his own client, as he put it, in 1976 with three photographic essays intended for exhibition and books. He considered Portraits of Trees, Vraies Semblances and New York a triptych in color, a technology that was new to him. But innovation itself wasn't new to him.

"Photography is the art of not pushing the button," he has famously said.

His eyesight began to fail in one eye in the mi-1980s so he switched to journalism, interviewing the photographers he admired, including Robert Doisneau, Don McCullin, Sara Moon and Helmut Newton.

But he never left photography behind. In fact, in the early 1990s he began experimenting with digital photography, moving to a compact digital camera in 1998. That was very early in the game.

He believed Photoshop helped compensate for his vision loss. And he continued to document his daily life with a compact digital camera until his dying day.

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