Torpeur sur la ville – Culture / Next

This young boy dozing on his father’s knees would surely have a lot to say to Simone de Beauvoir, who once wrote: “There is something in the air of New York that makes sleep unnecessary.” New York, the city that never sleeps and stores in its iron railroad cheeks the incessant buzzing and the impossible sighs of its worker ants.

In the New York photographs of the Italian Frank Horvat, in 1980, we find inhabitants who fight against gusts of snow by lifting their shopping bags like shields, homeless people, old ladies with make-up and posted in lookout on their benches. Some kids make concrete streets their privileged julesvernsque adventure grounds. In the New York of Frank Horvat’s photographs, we therefore find New York, not so exuberant as that, without miserability, its natural and vivid colors, its hurry, its subway packed, its geometric lines and slender buildings, then its thousand reflections of coffee shop windows. Side Walk, the sublime work which brings together the clichés of the great city, was released on October 22, just one day after its artist had left us.

Born in 1928 in Abbazia, in a still Italian Croatia, he made a solid reputation for himself in fashion photography, bringing out female models from studios to place them in the streets, on subway trains… The man, who has crossed many countries, including France, where he ended up settling in the late 1950s, is called a photojournalist, portraitist, landscape or fashion photographer. At the very end of the 1970s, he began to observe these New York passers-by (as a street photographer this time); he also writes a diary, listing his comings and goings, his experiments, his tools, because, for him, “Telling New York is a technical problem”. Equipped with his Nikon, an 85mm lens that allows a lot of light to enter, Horvat travels from “His sick eyes” (the cataract) Fifth Avenue, Sixth, the streets of Midtown and the avenues of the West, around Times Square and the bus terminal, the mouths of Queensboro Bridge… He does not hesitate to shift his attention as well as his framing, to capture the reflections and interweaving of urban mirages, their ordered disorder. But sometimes also to face: “In New York, tenderness is always on the verge of catastrophe, the mystery is only the reverse of excessive explanation”, he wrote in 1983. As here, with this boy draped in sleep, a sweet rest on the verge of annihilation.


Jeremy Piette

Side Walk of Frank Horvat ed. Xavier Barral, 160 pp., € 37.

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