Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Edith and the Kingpin, Oakland, July 2007.

The influence of Edward Hopper on how we see things is so profound that his name has become an adjective: "Hopper," according to English writer Geoff Dyer, "has come to evoke a real place that looks like a Hopper as often as it refers to an actual painting."

The "Hopper look," represented famously in Nighthawks, has been quoted time and again in movies to telegraph loneliness, shadowy isolation or the seemingly interminable passing of time, perhaps most memorably in film noir and the films of Wim Wenders: Million Dollar Hotel, The End of Violence, and Don't Come Knocking, which Wenders called "a tribute to my favorite painter."

Hopper's influence on photography is equally vast. Edward Hopper & Company, edited by Jeffrey Fraenkel, is the catalog of a recent San Francisco exhibition that demonstrates the spirit of Hopper in the works of eight masters of photography: Robert Adams, Diane Arbus, Harry Callahan, William Eggleston, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander and Stephen Shore.

The photographs below are from the exhibition; the paintings are not (the gallery used other paintings and drawings from its collection). Fraenkel pointedly states in his preface that none of these photographers sought to imitate Hopper in any way; these pictures are not pastiche. Some of them, he said, would actually be surprised to find themselves included in the exhibition.

Perhaps no one more so than Walker Evans. Evans' early works from the 1930s have been compared to Hopper's architectural landscapes for having the same "airless nostalgia for the past." Evans has denied the influence, and claims that he was not aware of Hopper or his work at the time. But Dyer is skeptical. "There is no getting away from or avoiding [Hopper]," he said. "To see his pictures is to begin to inhabit them. You see them everywhere even when you are not looking at them." And that pretty much sums up Hopper's invisible but lingering legacy for all photographers.

Walker Evans, Main Street Block, Selma, Alabama, 1936.

Lee Friedlander, Las Vegas, 1970.

Stephen Shore, JJ Summer's Agency, Duluth, MN, 1973.

Robert Frank, Santa Fe, Mexico, 1955.

Diane Arbus, Lady in a rooming house parlor, NY, 1963.

Robert Adams, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1968.

Wim Wenders and Donata Wenders, From "The Heart is a Sleeping Beauty"
Donata Wenders, Still shot from "Don't Come Knocking"

Nighthawks, 1942.
Early Sunday Morning, 1930. A Woman in the Sun, 1961. Drugstore, 1927. Gas, 1940. Hotel by a Railroad, 1952. Night Windows, 1928.

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