In the 1980s, Frank Horvat was living in New York City. The photographer, whose mesmerising pictures of racy Paris 1950s’ nightlife we have featured on flashbak, was looking at a city in transition. Named New York Up & Down, Horvat’s series of nostalgia-proof color photos also reveal a love for New York as a subject. As he says:
“New York is the only city in the world that I know of where 10 million people can be cramped in the same space and not fight too much with each other, and get along sort of nicely. It’s a melting pot and a superb urban experiment.”
In this bustling Petri Dish, people and things collide and pass-by without noticing one another. Horvat watches for juxtaposition. His pictures possess the speed and agility of a guileless snapshot quality as his camera is raised and fired. This light touch is deceptively simple. The skill is how Horvak manages to see so and do in a flash. The subjects are framed and the color film, so often devoid of abstraction, lets in density and radiance. The results are stella. And every picture seems to say, ‘Only in New York City’.
New York City
Sixth Avenue. A dark-haired woman rushes towards me, her hair lifted by a back draft, like Medusa’s serpents. I see her in the viewfinder, for a fraction of a second. But did I press the shutter at right moment? With the right frame, the right focus, the right speed? – Frank Horvat’s diary, 9th February 1983.
The highs and lows of New York City are not just the transitions from Uptown to Downtown, from the darkness of the subway to the view from the top floors of the sky-scrapers, from the temperatures of January to those of July. But also the shifts, from one day to the other and sometimes from one minute to the next, between exaltation and disappointment, triumph and failure, fulfillment and defeat – Frank Horvat’s autobiography, 2010.