Horst Tappe mainly photographed personalities from the fields of art and humanities. From the 1960s onwards, painters, actors, writers, musicians and heads of state succeeded one another in front of his Hasselblad lens.
His greatest successes include portraits of painters Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Oskar Kokoschka, actors Peter Ustinov, Sophia Loren and Noel Coward, writers Vladimir Nabokov, Ian Fleming and Harold Pinter, orchestra conductors Pierre Boulez and Igor Stravinsky, the musician Pablo Casals and statesmen Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger.
Born in 1938 in Westphalie, Germany, Horst Tappe attended the School of Experimental Photography near Frankfurt after an apprenticeship at the traditional photographic workshop of Martha Hoepffner. He then continued his training at the Vevey School of Photography in Switzerland, obtaining a maîtrise fédérale, a professional specialist qualification. His meeting with Gertrude Fehr played a decisive role in defining his photographic style.
Horst Tappe exhibited in many cities in Europe and the United States. From 1965, he lived and worked in Montreux, Switzerland, staying regularly in London, Paris and Berlin. He gradually built up a portrait gallery of internationally famous figures that was solicited by both the press and publishers. His photographs featured in newspapers and books around the world. In 1979, he became an honorary member of the American Society of Magazine Photographers.
« The face of an artist, marked in a unique and irremediable way by the work underway, is one of the only paths - and certainly the most compelling, often impenetrable or even unbearable to look at directly - that we have to gain access to his other face, that of his inner workshop, his dreams and his anguish, his memory and his passions. » Philippe Thélin
Far-removed from the apparent superficiality of the celebrity world, Horst Tappe approached his subject by seeking the intimate reality of the person. Behind each of his portraits is the story of a meeting or a friendship.
In the manner of an artisan, he developed prints of a very high quality in a laboratory installed simply in his home. Black and white was always an aesthetic choice, enabling him to create striking contrasts by avoiding the anecdotal aspect of the face, while at the same time bringing out the expression in the eyes of the person portrayed.