At the Horst: Photographer of Style exhibition currently running at the V & A, in among the glamour shots taken for Vogue and House and Garden, you will find a small section of black and white photographs drawn from nature the artist took in 1946. The full extent of these works can be found in Horst’s book Patterns from Nature, Plants dominate this part of the exhibition, with a series of portraits – Anthurium, Peperomia sandersii, Pinus strobus, Agave attenuata, Trichocereus candicans (now reclassified as Echinopsis candicans), Aeonium holochrysum, Ligularia kaempferi, Brassica oleracea (red cabbage) and Chrysanthemum frutescens (reclassified as Argyranthemum frutescens) – in addition to kaleidoscopic images (like the one above) of natural forms. The exhibition states that for the latter, Horst with his friend Warren Stokes “selected a detail from one of the photographs and printed the negatives as shot and in reverse. Horst then constructed collages using 16 individual prints in repeating patterns.” In Horst’s day, such manipulations would have been considered novel. Today, because Photoshop has revolutionised what we can do with an image, we see examples of it much more. That said, the beauty and artistry of Horst’s artworks has stood the test of time.
Patterns from Nature Photographic Collage, c. 1945 © Conde Nast, Horst Estate
In celebration of Horst’s artistry we offer directions on how to create the Photoshop equivalent:
How to create your own Horst Pattern from Nature using Photoshop
Step 1: You will need a photograph. Choose one with some plant texture and form. We are using this one. If you would like to use it too, go ahead. Click and save, or drag and drop directly into Photoshop.
Step 2: Open the image in Photoshop and unlock the layer by double clicking the padlock icon.
Then when prompted change the name of the layer from ‘Background’ to ‘Top Left’.
Step 3: Convert the image to black and white for a greater Horst-like result
Go to Image > Adjustments > Black & White
Step 4: Think about reducing the image size. If you want the final image for print, keep it large. If like us you want it for the web or just to experiment it is worth reducing the image size at this stage to make the processing quicker in Photoshop. We are going to make ours 400px by 265px at 72 pixels per inch.
Go to Image > Image Size
Step 5:. Before we start replicating the image we are going to flip it once horizontally. This is purely a design choice and not a necessary step – so you can miss it if you want.
Go to Image > Image Rotation > Flip Canvas Horizontally
Step 6: Just as Horst did, we are going to be creating a composition that replicates this image 16 times. This means we need to increase the Canvas size by 400%, so that it is large enough to hold the image 4 times across by 4 times down. Because we want the Canvas size to grow out from the top left, choose the top right Anchor (see image below) before pressing okay.
Go to Image > Canvas Size
Step 7: Now we will need to duplicate, flip and move our image to the empty parts of the canvas. First duplicate the layer, Then flip it horizontally, then move in into position to the right of the original layer.
Go to Layer > Duplicate Layer
Go to Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal
Now choose the Move Tool and place the image into position alongside the other layer. A tip – To make sure you place precisely the new layer so that there are no gaps, enable snapping
Go to View > Snap
Step 8: Now merge your two layers into one (you can keep them separate but you will have to do a lot more moves!)
Go to Layer > Merge Down
Step 9 Repeat steps 7 & 8 but this time Flip Vertical and move the layer into position beneath.
Step 9: Repeat steps 7, 8 & 9 one more time.
Now you have your own Horst Pattern from Nature!
Step 10: There are many options in Photoshop to enhance the image further. Although it would be better to make these adjustments at the beginning on the largest files size possible rather than at the end. But to get a striking image equivalent to Horst, some further work may be needed.