The celebrated photographer Frank Horvat died a year ago this month after a career spanning eight decades.

He is best known for helping to free French fashion photography from its stiffness in the 1950s by taking models out of the studio and into the streets to shoot.

Before that, he was a globetrotting photojournalist, working in his native as well as across and shortly after the countries gained independence. 

In the late 1970s, Horvat decided to begin pursuing his own projects, producing works on subjects as diverse as , sculptures and trees. 

Here, we look back at the photographs and life of the man whose boundless curiosity fuelled his life-long passion for his art.

Paris, France, 1959: Model Monique Dutto at metro exit for Les Jardin des Modes.Horvat is famed for helping to free French fashion photography from its stiffness in the 1950s by taking models out of the studio and into the streets to shoot

New York, USA, 1984: A Big Apple at Christmas time uptown. In the late 1970s, Horvat began pursuing his own project, producing works on subjects as diverse as New York City, sculptures and trees

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1963: A couple dancing. His interest in photography, Horvat would later recount, was born of the necessity of finding a way to speak to girls

Photographer Frank Horvat at an exhibition of his work at the Galerie Hiltawsky in Berlin in 2012.He died one year ago this month, aged 92

Frank Horvat was born into a world on the move.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire that birthed his parents had vanished ten years before he arrived on the scene on April, 28, 1928.

Abbazia, the Italian resort town where he was born, would become Opatija, and Croatian, less than two decades later, but by then he was already long gone.

His family was forced to flee their home in 1939 shortly after Fascist Italy imposed its racial laws, discriminating against Jews like the Horvats.

Karl Horvat, his father and a paediatrician, went into hiding in Budapest then onto Israel when the state formed in 1948.  

New York, United States, 1983: East 55th Street, sealed up building. A friend suggested that a camera could help a young Horvat to break the ice with girls, sparking a lifelong passion with photography in the process

 New Delhi, India, 1952: Jantar Mantar.Horvat’s work extended far beyond the pages of glossy magazines and took him around the world in search of inspiring subjects

New York, United States, 1983: Rain in Central Park.Horvat sold his stamp collection to buy his first camera, a second-hand Retinamat in the mid-1940s

Paris, France, 1962: Model Iris Bianchi and the film director Agnès Varda for Harper’s Bazaar.Varda (left), who died in 2019, was one of the key figures in French New Wave cinema

Horvat junior, meanwhile, fled to Switzerland with his psychiatrist mother Adele and younger sister Elisabetta.

It would be the first in a lifetime of journeys for Horvat, who died aged 92 on October 21 last year having gained a reputation as one of the most celebrated fashion photographers in France, though his body of work stretched well beyond the pages of glossy magazines.

Growing up in Mitteleuropa, Horvat was surrounded by a buzz of overlapping languages, tongues and dialects.

As a child, he spoke Italian at school and German at home, though Croatian and Hungarian were also spoken in the house. 

Puglia, Italy, 1950: Procession. Horvat started his career in advertising before turning his attention to photojournalism

Italy, 1948: Relic on a beach.One of Horvat’s first subjects was Italy’s impoverished south, where he documented post-war life

Campobasso, Italy, 1950: A procession. Horvat sold his photos of post-war Italy to publications in Germany and France, becoming a professional photographer in the process

Scanno, Abruzzo, Italy, 1949: Traditional footwear.Horvat’s photographs of southern Italy after the war were shocking in their portrayal of poverty but also showed communities steeped in tradition

The move to Switzerland exposed him to French and he was even able to pick up some English from British and American soldiers seeking refuge in Lugano, where he lived.

Horvat’s mastery of languages fuelled his love of literature, enabling him to read lifelong favourites such as Faust and Dante’s Inferno in their original languages.

Decades later, he would dedicate himself to learning Chinese and Russian ahead of exhibitions and projects in the countries.

According to his daughter, Fiammetta, who now manages his archive, Horvat ‘completely defined himself with languages’ exploring them with the same passion and curiosity that would lead him to photograph a wide variety of subjects over his long career. 

At the end of the war, the family returned to Italy, setting themselves up in Milan, where Horvat began working in advertising before turning his hand to photojournalism. 

Kolkata, India, 1952: Gathering of homeless people.A chance encounter with Sikh troops during the Second World War inspired Horvat to travel to India

Lahore, Pakistan, 1952: Bride at a Muslim wedding.This photo is included in The Family of Man, a groundbreaking exhibition, now housed in Luxembourg, which toured the world for eight years and was seen by more than nine million people

Lahore, Pakistan, 1952: A young dancer in Heera Mandhi red light district.Horvat spent nearly two-years living in newly-independent India and Pakistan, travelling throughout both countries

Lahore, Pakistan, 1952: A veiled woman. In the 1950s, photos from South Asia were something of a rarity for European publications, and Horvat’s were immediately snapped up by several outlets hungry for a glimpse into far-flung lands

His interest in photography, Horvat would later recount, was born of the necessity of finding a way to speak to girls. 

A friend suggested that a camera could help him to break the ice so Horvat sold his stamp collection and bought his first camera, a second-hand Retinamat.

He studied the work of his idol, the renowned French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, whose photographs he would always admire above all others’ and with whom he would develop a lasting friendship.

From Milan, reusable eyelashes Horvat travelled to Italy’s impoverished south, documenting what he saw in post-war Puglia, Campobasso and Abruzzo from 1948 to 1950.

The photos sold to publications in Germany and France and, just like that, Horvat became a professional photographer. 

Paris, France, 1955: Couple at Quai du Louvre couple.Horvat studied the work of his idol, the renowned French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, whose photographs he would always admire above all others’ and with whom he would develop a lasting friendship

Near Paris, France, 1956: Michel and Lorenzo, two of Horvat’s sons.Horvat would also often include his children in his fashion work

Caracas, Venezuela, 1963: ‘Superblocos’ tower blocks.Photography offered Horvat the opportunity to travel to places considered off the beaten track at the time

Caracas, Venezuela, 1963: ‘Superblocos’ tower blocks.Horvat’s boundless curiosity informed his photography, and was married with a skilful eye for compositon

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