Earlier this month, I had the privilege of attending the opening of Horst: Photographer of Style at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Working with Shawn Waldron*, the director of archives at Condé Nast, Ken Allen Studios printed twenty-five of Horst’s Vogue covers for the exhibit – 42×36 inch color prints.
Kodachrome: A Bizarre Beast
The final prints, all from original 8×10 inch Kodachromes, were beautiful, but the work to get to that point was intensive.
Introduced in 1935, Kodachrome was the one of the first commercially-used color films. The rich, saturated reds and archival longevity contributed to its popularity and wide-spread use, but these were the early days of color. Blues tended to shift and grays might exhibit a wide range of colors when printed. Each image for this exhibition required approximately 10 rounds of re-touching – about 10 hours per print.
Samples of the images were printed on 5 different papers. The final choice, Lexjet Sunset Satin, was the same support we used for some of Collier Schorr’s prints for her show earlier this year at 303 Gallery. The ink retention of this paper is exceptional and was perfect for the saturated colors of Horst’s vision.
Organized by Susanna Brown, Curator of Photographs at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the show opens with black and white photographs. The rooms are painted gray and the light is low to protect the vintage prints. Galleries, each dedicated to a different theme of Horst’s work, follow one to the other: e.g., Haute Couture, Surreal, Stage and Screen, Travel, and Studio. Two-thirds of the way through the exhibit, the Fashion in Colour gallery opens up to white walls and a white vinyl floor. After the stillness of the previous rooms, the effect of light and color is dramatic.
* This was the second exhibit we have worked on with Shawn Waldron and the Conde Nast Archives. The first, Coming into Fashion: A Century of Photography at Conde Nast, first opened at the C/O Berlin in 2012 and is currently on view at the Museum Bellerive, Zurich, the 5th leg of a 7-venue tour of Europe and North America.