Italian-born, 83-year-old photographer Frank Horvat has been at the craft for 65 years. As the child of two doctors, it wasn’t expected that he’d turn to capturing still images on a 35mm Retinamat camera. That is, however, what he traded in his stamp collection in for when he was 15.
After studying art in Italy, he worked as a freelance documentary-photographer in places such as India and Pakistan during the early 1950s. His claim to fame came with fashion, where he was the first to bring the 35mm camera and the reportage techniques from his documenting background to the world of haute couture. His publishing history includes Life, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle.
Horvat has personally chosen 2000 of his photos – only ones he feels comfortable enough to “call his own” – and gathered them in the Horvatland Ipad-app. “Time table”, “Keywords”, “Guided Tours” and “References” are some of the app-headlines that link the photos in a manageably criss-crossed manner.
You see his ex-wife Mate over most of her lifespan; model pictures, pregnant, pictures of her and their sons; pictures of her hospitalized and, touchingly, a picture from her wake. With interview titbits and encyclopaedia-entries, help one understand the life and work of this restless man.
Hours can be spent with the app, but it can be a bit sickening to look at after a while – rotating pictures back and forth on the fingerprint-smudged screen is a bit disorienting. Thankfully, if you have an Ipad, you can simply take the exhibition home and browse at your own pace. (Interesting fact – you can’t zoom in on a photo, because if you “crop” it, Horvat doesn’t consider it his photo anymore.)
Although beautiful, when you return to watch the few select photo prints on the gallery-wall, you marvel at the texture and the light of the photos, a certain splendour that an app cannot fully reproduce: a black and white photo of a woman, standing in a bathing suit with her back to the camera – the white trimming of the dark suits lights up, as well as her swim cap. You can barely see her face, she’s looking down. Her posture is strange; she’s not still, but you can’t really grasp what she’s doing. A beauty shot even if you don’t see the entire beauty of this woman; one can’t help but linger at this photo.
Horvat has a reputation for being a bit of a sadist. He often made models cry, because he stripped them of their comforts – making them stand with the back to the camera denying them objects (chairs, flowers) to work with. But a few models understood him, working with him in a common search for “the truth”.
If you’re part of the Ipadded elite, you can both get a small free version of Horvatland or pay to get the full experience.
Frank Horvat: A Trip Through A Mind, Through Apr 29 | Gallery Hiltlawski, Tucholskystr. 41, Mitte, S-Bhf Oranienburger Str.