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E.O. HoppéEmil Otto Hoppé was born in Munich in 1878 but lived in England from 1900 until his death in 1972. As an early and important photo-modernist, his seminal views of the United States in the 1920s rivaled those of his American peers Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, and Walker Evans. Hoppé shows us an America as only an outsider could: brave, new, and grand in scale but with a hint of trouble brewing in the gaps between its multicultural and economic diversities.
Hoppé‘s skill, intelligence, and photo-modernist vision established him in the 1920s and 30s as a dominate force in photographic art. The photographer‘s reputation was inadvertently eclipsed in 1954 when he sold his work to a London picture library where it was filed by subject and locked away—obscuring it from the public and from photographic historians. Only in 1994, through the research and investigative efforts of Graham Howe, photography curator and director of the traveling exhibitions and art services company Curatorial Assistance in Pasadena, California, has this major photographic collection been reassembled—enabling us to see for the first time in over half a century the work that evidenced Hoppé’s stellar achievement in the photo-modernist era.
In 1907, after winning first prize in a contest sponsored by the London newspaper, the Daily Mail, Hoppé left banking to open a portrait studio in London’s Baron’s Court. His photographs of arts celebrities such as Thomas Hardy, George Bernard Shaw, A.A. Milne, T.S. Eliot, G.K. Chesterton, Leon Bakst, Vaslav Nijinsky and the dancers of the Ballets Russes quickly earned him the reputation as the top celebrity photographer in London. In 1913 he expanded his studio to the Kensington house of the late painter Sir John Millais, occupying all thirty-three rooms with his burgeoning operation.
For over a decade Hoppé was London’s leading portrait photographer, and in 1919 he began take his camera to all continents of the world—photographing the people and landscapes in Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Africa, the United States, Jamaica and the West Indies, Cuba, New Zealand, Australia, India and Ceylon, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaya, and Japan. Hoppé’s large-format gravure-printed photographic books about “Fair Women” (1922), Great Britain (1926), United States (1927), Germany (1930 and 1932), and Australia (1931) were likely to have influenced other important photographers who followed, including Bill Brandt, Cecil Beaton, Walker Evans, and others.
Exhibitions and Publications
In October 2006 an enthusiastic press greeted the first exhibition of Hoppé’s work in over 60 years for Hoppé’s London at London’s Michael Hoppen Gallery.
In April 2007 the exhibition E.O. Hoppé’s Amerika opened at Bruce Silverstein Photography accompanied by the publication of a 160-page monograph of the same title by W.W. Norton with an essay by Phillip Prodger. This was the first US showing of Hoppé’s American photographs in over 80 years.
In May 2007 the exhibition E.O. Hoppé’s Australia, also published as a 216-page monograph by W.W. Norton with an essay by Graham Howe and Erika Esau, opened at the Customs House in Sydney. The Australia photographs had not been shown in Sydney for 76 years.
Preparation of publications and exhibitions for E.O. Hoppé: The English, and E.O. Hoppé: The British Machine, Photographs of Industrial Britain Between the Wars are underway, and work on E.O. Hoppé: The German Photographs, 1925-1938 will commence in 2008—a project that will compare Hoppé’s German photographs with those of his German peers—including Albert Renger-Patzsch, Werner Mantz, and August Sander. The exhibition E.O. Hoppé: Indian Subcontinent of the Cusp of Change is set to tour US and European venues, and the work from E.O. Hoppé: Diaghilev‘s Russian Ballet is being considered for publication and exhibition.
Much of the research on Hoppé is now being conducted by a team of leading photo-historians including Phillip Prodger, Cambridge and Stanford University educated art historian and former Curator of Photography at Saint Louis Art Museum; Colin Westerbeck, Director, California Museum of Photography, Riverside; and Mark Haworth-Booth, visiting Professor Photography, University of the Arts London, Honorary Research Fellow, Victoria and Albert Museum.