At the Jeu de Paume, Frank Horvat’s instinct for truth

The most famous image of Frank Horvat (1928-2020) is not representative of his style: we see a model with a mischievous eye hidden behind an impressive Givenchy hat standing out from a row of men from behind and wearing a top hat, she in white and they in black. This highly stylized fashion photo, published in the magazine fashion garden, in 1958, is a thousand miles from the sensitive and sensual images that the photographer was fond of. And for good reason: Frank Horvat did not choose it. “The artistic director (Jacques Moutin) made a little drawing and said to me, “I want this.” I didn’t think it was good at all, but I had no choice. » he said.

The adopted Frenchman, born in Italy, is hailed through the major exhibition “Frank Horvat. Paris, le monde, la mode”, at the Jeu de Paume, in Paris, which looks back on the fruitful work of his beginnings, when he collaborated with the press, from 1950 to 1965. We will see there that it is not with sophisticated stagings that Frank Horvat left his mark. In the 1950s and 1960s, in vogue or to Harper’s Bazaar, this pioneer blows a wind of freedom and novelty.

Emeritus photojournalist courted by the world of fashion, he obtains to keep his small Leica to photograph the models and seizes them on the fly, in the street, sometimes in the middle of astonished passers-by and often engaged in daily activities: leaning on a bar , in the middle of the Halles market, in Paris, taking the metro or drinking a coffee on the terrace. Like Carol Lobravico, photographed at the Café de Flore, in 1962, like a chic Parisian, in dark glasses and with a dachshund.

A life to experience

With Frank Horvat, no more ethereal and inaccessible creatures covered with a layer of make-up, frozen in rigid poses and robotic smiles: the latter recruited the models “by voice, on the telephone!” », says his daughter, Fiametta Horvat. He chooses those that have a personality before having a silhouette. And maintains friendly relations with some.

Model Judy Dent, whom he was close to, summed up his approach as follows: “He made me understand that what mattered was not so much showing a dress (…) than to show my own way of being a woman. » But the world of fashion, with all its constraints, will prove too narrow for this jack-of-all-trades who was once a member of the Magnum agency and who will spend his life experimenting – the telephoto lens, editing, digital…

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