Hoppé Birthday

Thanks to Luminous Lint, a great web site run by Alan Griffiths dedicated to “Building multiple Histories of Photography for those with passion…” for reminding me again on the site’s Facebook page of the work of Emil Otto Hoppé; yesterday, April 14th was the 137th anniversary of the birth in Munich of the man who became one of the best-known British photographers of the first half of the last century.

On Luminous Lint you can see a good selection of his later work, in the USA and Australia, together with examples of the kind of portraiture that made him become the most fashionable photographer in London, Mrs Lavery from 1914 and some examples from the 1920s. Perhaps surprisingly for a photographer who was probably the most prolific photographer of his age of London, there are no examples of this work.

Hoppé lived into his nineties, dying in 1972, so much of his work remains in copyright until 2042, seventy years from his death.  [Copyright law is complicated, and differs country to country; the photographer may not have retained copyright on some of his work, and some published work may by now be in the public domain.]  A great deal of previously unpublished work, along with better-known images was acquired in the 1990s by the Pasadena, California, based museum services company, Curatorial Assistance, Inc., who have invested a great deal of effort into publishing and promoting it throught the E O Hoppé Estate Collection., where you can see an interesting collection of his London images, as well as much else.

There is also an interesting page Hoppé’s Peers, which looks at some of his pictures beside some by Charles Sheeler, Edward Steichen, August Sander, Paul StrandAlbert Renger-Patzsch, Walker Evans and others.  It’s a page that confirms what I wrote in a post here, Hoppé Mad, about Hoppé and the Hoppé industry in 2009, and still worth reading in its entirety (I’ve here removed two now unnecessary links to Hoppé and Sheeler images  no longer active):

It is interesting that both Hoppé and Sheeler photographed the Ford plant in 1926/7, and you can compare the their images. Then go back and look at a similar subject photographed four years earlier by Edward Weston, Armco Steel, 1922.  If you can’t see the difference, then you certainly shouldn’t be writing about photography.

Ten years before that, in 1999, I had included a short section about the photographer in an article on War Photography, despite noting that “Hoppé, so far I know, never took a war photograph” but pointing out that he “was one of the pioneers of the ‘miniature’ cameras, taking his Leica, Contax and Super Ikonta around the world to photograph.”

Here is the rest of what I wrote about him in a very widely read piece 16 years ago:


E O Hoppé is one of those photographers whose name has almost been lost from view in the concentration on the development of the medium in the USA that has dominated photographic history in the last 60 years. His work and career can in some ways be compared to that of his contemporary Edward Steichen, (1879-1973). Both in earlier years were very much a part of the turn of the century pictorialism shown in such movements as the ‘Linked Ring‘. Hoppé became the best known portraitist of his time, photographing the rich and famous of the age, including many of the early stars of film, including Gladys Cooper, Mary Pickford and Marlene Dietrich.

Both Hoppé and Edward Steichen moved away from pictorialism and both turned commercial. Hoppé’s mastery of the new European modernism in photography was perhaps deeper in such works as his ‘Crane Land’ (1926) which frames one of London’s docks through a complex mesh of wires and rods of foreground cranes. Another interesting series was made from the top of a London bus – probably the first of projects of this type.

Hoppé became a photojournalist in the 1930s, travelling Europe and the World, although possibly his best known work is in his several books on London, including ‘The Image of London‘ (1935) and ‘A Camera on Unknown London‘ (1936). He also produced two books and the USA in the 1920s, one on Germany in 1930, ‘Round the World with a Camera‘, (1934), several books of portraits and his autobiography ‘Hundred Thousand Exposures: The Success of a Photographer‘ (1945) which remains an interesting read. It combines a great deal of advice – much of which is still apposite – including the advice ‘economy in films is unwise’ – and some interesting anecdotes, although sometimes its style grates.


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