Well, this week I finally made it to the exhibition - on a Thursday evening during one of the National Portrait Gallery's "Late Shift". Before talking about the exhibition, I would just like to mention the concept of the "Late Shift". This is the most innovative idea I have come across for a long time. On Thursday and Friday evenings, the Gallery is open until 9pm, with a bar in the main foyer, a DJ playing some great music (on the day I went) and a variety of other activities. There is a lovely relaxed atmosphere which really helps in viewing the exhibitions.
The first thing which struck me about the exhibition was how prolific Hoppé was - I imagine that the photographs which were on display were only a part of the main collection. Some of the photographs were original vintage photographs and some were modern reprints - however this did not detract from the pleasure of viewing them.
So what were my impressions. Hoppé captured the spirit of the subject, whether the androgynous look of Vaslav Nijinsky (1914) image here, the confidence of a young Margot Fonteyn (1935) see image, taken after her first major performance at the age of 16, or the thoughtfulness of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1912) see image here. With regard to much of his early work, there is a soft quality in the vintage prints which just could not be reproduced in digital. This is not just due to the very wide apertures used by Hoppe, but also the materials of the period, such as the gelatin silver prints.
One of the most exciting series of prints in this exhibition, was "street" which was Hoppe's venture into street photography, sometimes using cameras which were hidden inside brown bags with a hole for the lens! It is, however, a great insight into English and in particular, London, life. Here were some of my favourite photographs:
British Museum Underground Station (1937) see image here, for me the curves of the tunnel, the positioning of the man looking at the advert and the light pouring in from the end of the tunnel come together just so well that I am constantly drawn to it.
Sandwich Board Man (1945) see image here There is a tremendous dignity of the Indian person who was carrying the advertising boards. Clearly he is on a the street, but the use of the wide aperture and the low positioning of the camera, give the man such great importance.