Edward Hopper & Company: Hopper’s Influence on Photography

Author: Jeffrey Fraenkel

Publisher: Fraenkel Gallery

Review by Conrad J. Obregon

Too often photographers and photography viewers forget the links between photography and the other arts. Keeping these links in mind might lead to better vision and better understanding and appreciation of images.

“Edward Hopper & Company” is just the book to make and reinforce those links. Originally prepared as a catalogue of a show at the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco, the book consists of several paintings and drawings by Edward Hopper, a giant of twentieth century representational painting, and a collection of photographs by Robert Adams, Diane Arbus, Harry Callahan, William Eggleston, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander and Stephen Shore, all giants in the pantheon of photography. The book shows the connections between Hopper’s form and content and that of the photographers.

The written commentary in the book is negligible and that is appropriate, because the pictures in the book speak so clearly that further explanation would be redundant. Consider the first picture in the book, which depicts a store window in Duluth. Unless one knew every picture in Hopper’s oeuvre and none of the work of Stephen Shore, one would be sure this was a Hopper painting, until one looked at the small label describing the photograph. This similarity to Hopper’s work in both form and content is obvious in every image in the book.

There is certainly food for thought here. Did the photographers see Hopper’s work and try to copy it? Or was there something in the air that simultaneously developed the same vision in the painter and the photographers, like the similar work on evolution by Matthew, Wallace and Darwin.

Although one can discuss the similarity of subject matter, I would propose that the photographers were as concerned with the palpability of light as Hopper, to a greater or lesser degree. (Interestingly, and probably apocryphally, when Hopper was asked how he had developed his use of light he answered “I just paint what I see.” How wonderful to be able to see that way!).

What other opportunities are there for photographiles to learn from other artists? Almost immediately I think of Gericault’s use of color and handling of skies but the list of artists keeps growing as quickly as my mind can work. And what of the possibilities of learning from the non-visual arts. What does Mahler have to teach us about repetition and counterpoint? Aside from the wonderful images in this book, it should stir us to develop our artistic sensibilities from all the arts.

As to the book itself, the paintings and photographs are well reproduced, and would be a pleasure to view, even without the theme. Each image appears alone on the right side of the spread with a small caption on the left so that there are no distractions from the viewed image.

Altogether, this is a remarkable book for those interested in the arts, photographic or otherwise.

This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store