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Indepth Arts News:

"John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins: 1960 to 1965 – A Taster"
2004-07-21 until 2004-08-31
hug - Gallery for International Photography
Amsterdam, , NL Netherlands

Hoppy graduated from Cambridge University in 1958 with a Master’s degree in Physics and embarked upon a short career as a nuclear physicist.  However, a graduation present of a camera was to change his career route significantly.  He arrived in London in 1960 and began to work for The Sunday Times, The Observer, Melody Maker, Jazz Journal and Peace News. “The Melody Maker because I was into jazz, Peace News because... well, one does.” Hoppy captured the mood of the fast-changing Sixties and photographed The Stones and The Beatles on their first wave of stardom and in their prime, and through his greatest passion, jazz, captured his atmospheric images of Duke Ellington, Dexter Gordon, Thelonious Monk & Louis Armstrong. These portraits evoke the personalities of his subjects through the spontaneous and unpretentious way in which he worked.

Through Melody Maker Hoppy worked with the biggest groups of the day “...they were having difficulty getting good pictures of The Rolling Stones because the group was so unreliable and they asked me to help,” he says. “We booked a studio for 11am and after five minutes I realised it wasn’t going to work.  They were all asleep and they were literally holding Keith up.  So, we went off to a cafe for breakfast and that’s where I got the shot of Mick and Keith looking all soft and vulnerable waiting for a cup of tea. They liked it and said that I was the only person ever to have photographed them before lunch.”

Both groups were moving swiftly away from mainstream pop, experimenting with drugs and getting interested in avant-garde art, poetry and Eastern mysticism and Hoppy was there as an informal pilot.  “When I look at these old pictures.......I just think how young everybody looks.”

In Stark contrast Hoppy recorded the seediness of Notting Hill, with photographs of grubby tattoo parlours, bikers cafes and prostitutes in their small bed sits. He worked as a photojournalist for a comparatively short period and by 1965 he began to drift into the London psychedelic scene and during this time he recorded and was even responsible for many of the diverse events that embodied Sixties counterculture.

Documenting peace marches, poetry readings with a naked Allen Ginsberg, and photographing twentieth century icons such as Martin Luther King and Malcolm X in London.

During the mid 1960s Hoppy founded Britain’s first underground newspaper the International Times, which was funded by a generous donation from Paul McCartney. Which at its height had a circulation of 40,000.  He also co-established a publishing company, promoted Pink Floyd and set up London’s first all-night psychedelic club, the UFO, where Hendrix would call in and jam.  

Then on the day Sergeant Pepper was released Hoppy was arrested and spent much of 1967s Summer of Love in prison, serving a ludicrously vindictive sentence for the possession of marijuana.  As a protest to his arrest an advertisement appeared in The Times, organised by the Cannabis Law Reform and paid for by The Beatles.

“I served six months in the Scrubs.  Mick and Keith were also there after their drug bust.  I said hello, but they were only there for two or three days.  They had friends in all the right places!”

As the Sixties drew to a close Hoppy turned towards video and was regularly sponsored by members of both The Stones and The Beatles. Documenting underground subjects as diverse as American political fugitives in Algiers; to using John Lennon’s portable video equipment in the late 60s to record a free Stones concert in London, held shortly after the death of Brian Jones.  Hoppy received video equipment from Lennon, Harrison and Star. “Ringo kept his (video equipment) under the stairs, Lennon under the bed with his MBE (Member of the British Empire medal from The Queen).”

By the closing years of the 1960s Hoppy had become a pivotal, even legendary, figure in the London underground scene.  For Hoppy the Sixties offered “....just a great opportunity to take pictures of people I loved for free.”

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