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Éditions Louis Vuitton : Frank Horvat : Hong Kong


Synonymous with the art of traveling since 1854, Louis Vuitton Editions continue to add titles to the “Fashion Eye” collection. Each book evokes a city, a region, or a country, seen through the eyes of a photographer. In 1963, Frank Horvat anchors Hong Kong in a landscape of multitudes and saturations.

Frank Horvat landed in Hong Kong in 1963, accompanied by journalist Dieter Lattmann to fulfill a commission from the German magazine Revue. The two men are tasked with covering twelve major non-European cities around the world and conveying, in their own vocabularies, life on the spot.

The French photographer, born in Abbazia, Italy (now Opatija, Croatia), is at the peak of a career that spans photojournalism, fashion photography, and personal projects. From 1958 to 1961, he was a member of Magnum Photos and in the 1950s and 1960s, he undertook projects for esteemed magazines (Réalités, Caméra, Elle, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar).

Hong Kong is a compact territory of 2,755 km² inhabited by four million people. The “bamboo curtain” with neighboring China proves porous, and migrants gather on the outskirts of the city in shantytowns. The government constructs buildings at a rapid pace, casting shadows over the previous structures. The city teems with life, even though the expression may evoke a stereotyped imagination of Oriental cities.

Nevertheless, the city’s density is evident to Horvat. The city is filled with humans, faces, crowds, and anonymous individuals, all captured through Frank Horvat’s close-up lens. His lens is so close that it confronts bewildered or absent eyes, almost resting on indifferent shoulders.

His intentionally and brilliantly confusing images sometimes become illegible with signs. These are the vertical writings from the sky to the depths, which for the Western eye remain an undecipherable empire, an object among the countless. In these images, as Sylvie Lécallier emphasizes, “space is saturated, emptiness is nonexistent.” There are only signs without meaning or signification, patterns that invade the image, causing dizziness with scents, animal flesh, geometries coupled with advertisements.

The human in this context is a melody woven into a larger symphony. It is crushed by concrete and valiant when holding grumpy-faced children. It is enveloped in gestures, cigarettes in the beak or curls of a kitchen. It has a sideways glance, a detached spirit, or the calmness of those who have seen it all before Horvat. In the city, it is a restless solitude, and to the photographer, a genial subject.

This city, framed too closely, framed in a disorderly manner, explodes under the photographer’s technique. The whole creates a deliberately abundant gaze, giving the viewer a pleasant sense of disarray, like a whirlwind of images, gestures, movements, and moments striking their imagination.

A photographic book is nothing without composition. The design by Lords of Design reinforces the reality filled with signs, devoid of meaning, by Frank Horvat. Full-page compositions, rather than giving space to the work, support an overloaded rhythm, like a drum and a brass band emerging in the frenzy of a street corner.

And the choice of paper resembling parchment, sealed like a grimoire, with visible fibrous lines, serves the book’s purpose wonderfully. It must be said when a book is admirably crafted. This one lives up to a city that managed to drown the photographer. Under his gaze, Hong Kong is no longer just a city. It is simply the translation of a photographer into an unknown language.


Frank Horvat – Hong Kong
Published by Louis Vuitton Editions, 2023
Fashion Eye Collection Collection
Director: Axelle Thomas
Editor: Anthony Vessot
Edited by Sylvie Lécallier
Graphic Design: Lords of Design
Available in all good bookstores and online.

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