Hundred Thousand Exposures

Hundred Thousand Exposures, The Success of a Photographer is the 1945 autobiography of E.O Hoppé, introduced be Cecil Beaton. Beaton describes Hoppé’s work:

Hoppé’s pictures were entirely different from the other photographs at that period, for they were all imbued with a controlled and subtle romanticism and atmospheric glow – they were the work of someone with taste, perception, appreciation; of someone who used the camera as an artist.

The book is a chronology of Hoppé’s career through turning professional, setting up a studio, advise on equipment, how to handle sitters, to his experience with a few of his most famous sitters, including Mussolini.

The book is of a different era based in a society that was very different to 21st century England, but it offers insights that are still relevant today:

  • He offers advice on starting out in photography and cautions against over-investing in the latest equipment, ‘the wealthy man, according to my observations, rarely succeeds because he is tempted to rely more on the latest elaborate equipment than ideas, effort and stamina … to work long hours experimenting .. ‘
  • Hoppé discusses his location preferences for portraiture as ‘miniature’ cameras developed and allowed for mobility beyond the studio environment, ‘harmony between sitter and photographer is best achieved in the former’s domestic or business environment. There is always a certain artificiality about a studio, and there is noting like a home atmosphere for promoting intimacy. At home, the sitter is host, which gives a natural sense of dominance and poise’ (p46).
  • He emphasises the importance of keeping equipment simple, so his mind is free to concentrate on essentials (p67); ‘possibly some astonishment will be caused by the simplicity of my outfit … I am aware that enterprising manufacturers sell almost every variety of gadget for home portraiture, but most of the these things are bought by the overawed amateur’. This reminds me of the approach taken by Helmut Newton (mentioned here).

Throughout the book Hoppé emphasises the importance of understanding and researching his subjects to engaging them in conversation and allow them to express their character before the camera. He enjoyed the psychological aspect of working with portraiture, and this is what lead him into studies of ‘types’.

Reference

Hoppé E.O (1945). Hundred Thousand Exposures, The Success of a Photographer. London and New York, The Focal Press.

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