Emil Otto Hoppé (1878-1972) was one of the most important art and documentary photographers of the modern era, whose artistic success rivaled that of his peers, Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), Edward Steichen (1879-1973) and Walker Evans (1903-1975).
Beginning fine art photography in 1903, Hoppé was admitted as a member of Britain’s Royal Photographic Society where, over the next several years, he regularly exhibited his amateur photographic works. Hoppé was also associated with The Brotherhood of the Linked Ring and fellow members Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882-1966), Henry Peach Robinson (1830-1901), and George Davidson (1854-1930). Together these artists played an important role in international art photography, maintaining close ties with continental and American groups including the Vienna Camera Club and the Photo Secession, New York.
Hoppé quickly became a professional, and a celebrated master of studio camera portraiture. His subjects include a virtual Who’s Who of important personalities in the arts, literature, and politics. Among the hundreds of well-known figures he photographed were Albert Einstein, George Bernard Shaw, Enrico Caruso, Marion Davies, Henry James, H.G. Wells, Lillian Gish, A.A. Milne, Rudyard Kipling, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Thomas Hardy, Vita Sackville-West, Paul Robeson, Sylvia Pankhurst, Jacob Epstein, Vaslav Nijinsky and the dancers of the Ballets Russes, Benito Mussolini, Queen Mary, King George V, and other royalty, nobility, politicians, artists and activists from around the world.
After mastering both formal studio and modernist street portraits, Hoppé began to travel the globe, for months and even years at a stretch, to capture the character of entire nations and continents as a brilliant landscape, travel and cultural documentary photographer. He published a range of popular books of his travels, recording places and people that had not been widely seen or appreciated in the West.
Mostly in retirement from major photographic projects after 1947, for the rest of his life Hoppé continued to mine his body of work and his unique travel experiences as an incredibly prolific writer for newspapers and magazines.
In 1954, Hoppé sold his extensive image archive of prints and negatives to the Mansell Collection, a stock photo business. As a part of the accession of his assets, Hoppé’s images were filed away by subject, not by author. As a result, his amazing body of work was no longer available to be studied as the work of a singular artist, and mainstream public awareness of the man who was once the most famous photographer in the world faded away.
Decades later, in the 1990s, through the efforts of curator and photographer Graham Howe, Hoppé’s work was carefully extracted from the stock photo archive and re-assembled as part of the E.O. Hoppé Estate Collection managed by Curatorial Inc. As a result, Hoppé’s amazing images have finally been made available in high resolution scans, mostly from original camera negatives, including many that have never been seen before by the public.