Rip Hopkins seems at first « unclassifiable », he escapes the usual artistic categories, and surprises with the heterogeneity of his work’s evolution and his images. A reporter, in the late 1990s, in South Sudan, Madagascar, the Amazon, East Timor or Liberia (amongst other destinations), he is later found in an incredible and terrible Greek psychiatric hospital, in Uzbekistan close to the « displaced » people of Soviet history, in a circus in Riga, in the Musée d’Orsay, on Parisian suburban train platforms or flirting with the fashion world.. ! His approach and his technique have also varied greatly, from panoramic to medium format, from black and white to colour, from a snapshot to carefully staged compositions influenced by drawing and classical painting. A style that the photographer has now adopted since the early 2000s.
This personal wandering resonates with that (those) of the individuals he photographs most often : gypsies, circus performers, Irish outlaws, migrants, the « displaced », marginals, child soldiers, groups tragically affected by war… If the image is fixed by Rip Hopkins (although the artist has made a few documentary films), the identity of his subjects is moving, becoming, « non-standard », deterritorialized, always questing for itself. In an attempt to understand its multiplicity and differences, Rip Hopkins reinvests the portrait genre : portraits of singular individuals, but also, through the framework of a series, portraits of a community, of a micro-society, even of a city or an entire region. At the border of documentary and fiction, realism and a subjective point of view, Rip Hopkins subtly intermixes testimony with plastic preoccupations (lights, colours, lines, motifs set in resonance), without denying himself a few detours through humour or the incongruous. Each of his images becomes a combination of social meanings and aesthetic perceptions, searching for a delicate and difficult balance between the erasure before the real and its putting into perspective and forms. Photography is here, in the artistic and human sense, a meeting.
© Jean-Emmanuel Denave 2008