Phillip Prodger
Hoppe Photograph
E.O. Hoppé, Ford Factory, Detroit, 1926, gelatin silver print
© Curatorial Assistance Inc., all rights reserved.

The photographer, designer, and draftsman Emil Otto Hoppé was born in Munich in 1878 but lived in London from 1900 until his death in 1972. In the 1920s, commissioned by a German publisher of travel books, he set out on a series of trips across America, photographing people and places from Seattle to the Florida Keys and from New Hampshire to Baja. He was the first photographer to make such a complete survey of the country, setting the stage for legendary photographers Walker Evans and Robert Frank. The pictures Hoppé made on his journeys are rich in meaning and full of sly commentary, revealing him as a pioneering modernist whose pictures rival those of his contemporaries: Paul Strand, Edward Steichen, and Alfred Stieglitz. Hoppé's Amerika details the profound influence he had on these and other American photographers of the time, including Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.

Hoppé's photographs portray America as an outsider might see it — brave, modern, and grand in scale but with a hint of trouble brewing at the edges. Though he was one of the most famous photographers of his time, Hoppé is not nearly so well known today. He had influential supporters, such as Gertrude Käsebier and Alvin Langdon Coburn, but he also had a heated rivalry with Stieglitz, which caused his reputation to suffer. The story of these relationships is told in the book. Hoppé's work was locked away in English and German archives for the second half of the twentieth century, and has only been rediscovered recently. E. O. Hoppé's Amerika: Modernist Photographs from the 1920s is the first substantial publication on the artist's work since his death.

I am currently writing a follow-up volume about Hoppé's photographs of Germany between the wars. It will feature selections from his legendary book Deutsche Arbeit of 1930, as well as many extraordinary pictures that have never been published before.

Phillip Prodger, E. O. Hoppé's Amerika: Modernist Photographs from the 1920s, [New York and London: W.W. Norton, 2007], ISBN-13: 978-0393065442