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He hardly put his Leica down all day: at the press conference, during the tour given for journalists, and at the well-attended vernissage, Thomas Hoepker was constantly taking pictures. Together with his wife, Christine Kruchen, he had been invited to the Ernst Leitz Museum to open the exhibition curated in his honour. In particular, when he himself became the focus of the many colleagues and their cameras who were present, he turned his Leica back on them. When he is with his camera, he seems to be on safe ground, even if Alzheimer's has robbed him of many of his memories.

The retrospective is a tribute to a photographer who has shaped German and international photojournalism like few others since the 1960s. Starting out as a regular contributor to important magazines, both as a photographer and a correspondent, but later also as an art director and an internationally renowned Magnum photographer, he is today one of the most significant representatives of engaged, empathic photojournalism. Even so, he has always humbly seen himself as little more than an assignment photographer, an “image maker”; one who is interested in nothing less than reality and the authenticity of the moment. Yet, as a journalist, he did more than simply photograph the “news”: his motifs are always also commentaries, that condense history into strong individual motifs.

The retrospective presents around 180 pictures. Though but a small selection from his rich life's oeuvre, the exhibition includes many important motifs in loose chronological order, while also focussing on specific themes: consequently, the legendary pictures of the Champ Muhammad Ali or artist portraits of Andy Warhol and others, play as equal a part in the display as the selection of images from his now legendary road trip across the USA in 1963. Photographs from the GDR, where Hoepker lived from 1974 to 1976, also make up a separate chapter in the exhibition.

The photographs presented as Early Works, are a great discovery providing insight into Hoepker's early creation. They were taken at the end of the fifties, mainly in Italy, France and Germany, at the time when he was still studying history of art. Many motifs taken from his archive will be shown for the first time.

The pictures from the road trip across the USA that the photographer and his wife took two years ago are the most recent. Following in the tracks of his first trip in 1963, the photographer traversed the country once more in 2020. The new colour pictures are being presented for the first time in juxtaposition to the now historic motifs. Steidl Verlag has published a photo book titled The Way it Was. Road Trip USA, to coincide with the retrospective. It is an exciting and critical journey through both the country and through time.

Looking at this overview of his now iconic motifs, together with images never shown before as well as the more recent ones, it becomes more apparent than ever that Hoepker was and is so much more than a simple “image maker”; after all, over the many decades of his active photographic life, a body of work has emerged that extends far beyond the context of its creation and can also be seen as immensely artistic. They are images that remain. On display in Wetzlar up until July 17. (Ulrich Rüter)

You will find more information concerning opening hours at the website of the Ernst Leitz Museum.

LFI 3/2022 presents a comprehensive portfolio of Thomas Hoepker’s work in its Leica Classic segment.
Thomas Hoepker at the Ernst Leitz Museum Wetzlar, 31.03.2022; © Thorsten Wulff
Thomas Hoepker during the press conference at the Ernst Leitz Museum Wetzlar, 31.03.2022; © Thorsten Wulff
Thomas Hoepker at the Ernst Leitz Museum Wetzlar, 31.03.2022; © Thorsten Wulff
Christine Kruchen and Thomas Hoepker during the press conference at the Ernst Leitz Museum Wetzlar, 31.03.2022; © Thorsten Wulff
Christine Kruchen, Thomas Hoepker, Karin Rehn-Kaufmann, Dr. Andreas Kaufmann and Inas Fayed at the Ernst Leitz Museum Wetzlar, 31.03.2022; © Thorsten Wulff
Ali jumping, Chicago, USA 1966; © Thomas Hoepker / Magnum Photos
Andy Warhol in his Factory, New York City, USA 1981; © Thomas Hoepker / Magnum Photos
Nevada, USA 1963; © Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos
Portrait of my first Leica and a friend I was travelling with, Crotone, Calabria, Italy 1958; © Thomas Hoepker / Magnum Photos
The town of Merkel, Texas, USA 2020; © Thomas Hoepker / Magnum Photos
© Arne Wesenberg

Thomas Hoepker

Born in Munich in 1936. Early successes and awards. Photo reporter for the Münchner Illustrierten in 1960; as of 1962 member of the Kristall editorial team, then working for Stern as of 1964. In addition to black and white pictures, Hoepker is able to produce early colour pictures for the magazine. Here too, his Leica is his indispensable work tool. Starting in the 1970s, he also works as a cameraman producing numerous documentary and TV movies. Hoepker moves to New York in 1976, and from 1978 to 1981 is the Executive Editor of the American edition of GEO. He returns to Hamburg and works as Art Director for Stern's chief editorial team. In 1989 he becomes the first German member of the renowned Magnum Photos Agency, acting as its President from 2003 to 2007. He produces further documentaries with his second wife, the film maker Christine Kruchen. Hoepker now lives in New York and Berlin. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Culture Prize of the German Photographic Society (DGPh) in 1968. In 2005, thousands of photographs are donated to the Photography Museum in the city of Munich. In 2014 Hoepker is honoured with the Leica Hall of Fame Award.
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