Eye Opening

Muriel Maxwell

July 1939 Vogue cover with Muriel Maxwell. © Condé Nast/Horst Estate; Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

In 1942, when the photographer Horst P. Horst met Marlene Dietrich on a shoot, she commanded him to “remember the von Sternberg lighting,” referring to Josef von Sternberg, whose style of illumination in films such as 1930’s The Blue Angel helped make her a star. Horst, however, had his own ideas: He placed a mirror next to the camera and moved the light slightly below her face. The resulting portrait is one of Dietrich’s most iconic. Nobody knew how to light a subject as well as Horst, heralded for his meticulously composed, dramatically shadowed black and white images of Dietrich, Coco Chanel, and other outsize figures. But a new show opening September 6 (through January 4, 2015) at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum goes beyond the famous faces. “Horst: Photographer of Style” also explores his lesser known nudes, travel photos, and nature studies. The most startling revelation may be his mastery of color. Curator Susanna Brown commissioned the first large-scale prints of Horst’s color work, inviting visitors to see the photographer in a whole new light.