Interview with Ben Hopper on WOBBLINBETTY.com
Hello beautiful people! Today I’m very excited to introduce you the work of Ben Hopper, the “HOTTER-THAN-WASABI up-and-coming London-based fine art photographer”.
He created a lot of buzz around himself a few months ago when he launched the serie: “Naked girls with masks”, a bold bodily communication, a parody of the self-censorship we all succumb to everyday. The serie features nude models wearing surprising, comical, and sometimes grotesque full-head masks. “You’ve heard of masked balls… but these shots are all about masked boobies! (…) a parody of the way in which human beings usually present themselves, they beg the question – why do we reveal our faces, yet hide our bodies from view? And what happens when that arrangement is turned on its (masked) head?”
Reading about this project lit me up with curiosity about Ben and his work and in no time at all I was contacting him to with a few questions about his vision and inspiration. And, why not?, some hot tips about London’s nightlife!
Ben Hopper is on a mission to create as many remarkable timeless images designed to overwhelm; his work has featured in magazines and exhibitions everywhere from Spain to Jordan, Switzerland, France, Germany and Italy. He lives in London, and originally hails from Israel, but has no desire for his projects to be weighed down with the heavy politics and negativity that’s sadly often associated with the region; instead, he wants to forge new, positive connotations by taking pictures filled with explosive movement, stylish humor, and intriguingly odd-yet-stunning scenarios. He’s bold and sharp photography includes scenery, movement and mood. It mainly involves conceptual fashion images, portraits of dancers, circus artists, musicians and pretty girls. He is currently in-house photographer for two of the UK’s most notoriously trend-setting alternative clubs: Bête-Noire (PKA The Last Days of Decadence) and White Mischief.
You are originally from Israel and you are living in London. How does the city and its people inspire you?
London’s population is almost the same as Israel. It’s the population of my whole country in one city. It opened my mind to so many things, both philosophical and practical. If I want to travel around for work or pleasure everything is closer. If I want to find more photography work or have a bigger audience for what I do, it’s right here. I can go to Europe or NYC or I can just use the existing 7.5 million people who keep this city alive and changing with a huge mixture of cultures. When I first moved here I was walking around for about a month only thinking to myself “This is it. This is where trends are made. This is what everybody are talking about”. I guess you could say that about any other global city but living in Israel is SO different. If I’d compare Tel Aviv (which is the centre of culture and progress in Israel); Tel Aviv would be a city, London would be a state.
The funny thing about British people (and Londoners in particular) is that somehow with their British restraint and manners, come a very perverted and naughty alter-ego. I find that fact extremely constructive for the things that I photograph. People here are more than willing to make up a good party. Dress up. I sometimes feel like I am observing a culture and doing my imaginary PhD in anthropology. There’s another aspect that I find interesting; my young brother is a circus performer and he lives in Madrid. He does contemporary circus. It’s mostly about creative theatre and outstanding technical skills. In London, the technical level of the performers is not as good as the one you will find in Europe – Spain or France BUT the British performers KNOW how to give a show. They blow you away with their stage presence.
How would you describe your aesthetic in five words?
At the moment I would say perhaps: movement, concept, scenery, performance and controversy.
If you ask me that question in 2 years I think I would probably only mention controversy where the rest would be my obvious style. I don’t know really. I am trying to move people. To make them think. I think I am slowly getting there. I’ve been doing this for 3 years only and it changes all the time. I am also getting exposed to more and more things; culture, people, societies.
At the end, I am trying to make stuff I’d be proud of myself. I always think to myself; “if I saw that picture in a magazine or a gallery would I find it cool or beautiful?” –I try to make it for myself, then friends – then the client. And at the moment the goal is to merge all 3.
How do you choose your models and how do you like them to pose when you are directing the shoots?
Going back to the previous question; myself/friends/client – I always say that I photograph 3 types of things: things that I’m attracted to, things that I find as being cool and things I’m getting paid for.
If it’s a female model I’d probably look for my ideal type of woman or in other words, women I find attractive myself – and that can be anywhere from a model I spot in a magazine, model agency, on the street, on facebook or in a party – it will usually be tall, thin, beautiful women. Yes, I know – typical. But I do find androgyny looks fascinating. I’m slowly photographing a series of beautiful women with armpit hair. The idea is to have women that are SO beautiful – you would never be able to imagine them with hairy armpits – which is something that usually being associated with butch feminine unattractive lesbians. I approach specific women I want to photograph and ask them if they could grow it out for the picture. If I had a choice I would go for people like Freja Beha Erichsen, Eliza Cummings and also porn stars Sasha Grey and Stoya.
If there’s any directions I give during a photoshoot it will be trying to make them look more beautiful I think. Bring out the beauty in their face, bodies – whatever it is – it will be however my beauty or how I see beauty so that might be a little bizarre to some people 🙂
I also tend to ask people to move in different ways. Maybe dance sometimes or pretend they’re dancing. I’d usually photograph them in movement and try to capture unnatural poses and movements.
Which was the most exciting project you had been working on?
My most exciting project up to date is a new experimental project I call for now: “Post Face Fuck Portraits”. It’s the most vulgar thing I have ever done. It’s basically pictures of beautiful women with a look that seems like they just gave a very intense and messy blow job but there are no semen traces so you look at the picture and ask yourself: “did she just…?!” -The exciting part is the creation of that look. It is far more stressing than photographing a naked women in a public place.
I don’t even know if I should do it or speak about it. This whole thing is so wrong but this is why I think something good might come out of it.
Which is the magazine you love the most?
I love Vice Magazine. I learned a lot from their approach in the recent year. I also like magazines like 125 Magazine and Dazed & Confused and i-D. I haven’t done any work with all 4 yet. I think 2011 would be a good time to start.
Is there any celebrity you would really love to shoot?
There are a bunch of them. Tom Waits would be an obvious choice. I’d love to photograph Paul Simon as well. Bob Dylan. All these people I grew up getting inspired of and now getting old and if I won’t be quick I’ll miss my chance. I already lost it with George Carlin. There’s this book project I’ve been thinking of lately; it’s a book I’d like to call Legends and it will contain portraits that I’ll photograph of people I consider as “legends”. However, they don’t have to be real celebrities like Bob Dylan. Even though most of them are quite known. All the guys from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. I guess a lot of musicians but there’s also Philippe Petit (the High wire artist from the movie Man on Wire); to me he represents everything that circus and performance stands for. I cry every time I’m watching that movie.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve ever taken?
Every new project is a challenge. I’m trying to be pretentious with the ideas for my projects. A lot of the models on my series Naked Girls with Masks were hard if not impossible to convince to pose naked even with a mask on. I knew that when I first approached them. Then I would ask them to grow their pubes for the photos because I thought it would be more interesting. Most of them almost vomited in my face just by the thought of it…hehe
There’s also the hairy armpits. It’s VERY hard to convince beautiful women to grow their armpit hair for a photograph! Not to mention the ‘Post Face Fuck’…I am just becoming more and more hard on myself.
What is in your ipod?
It’s varied and changing. I used to play a lot of guitar when I was younger so there are a lot of influences. To give a few it’s stuff like: Neil Young, The Avettt Brothers, Nada Surf, Bert Janch, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Deus, Captain Beefheart, Venetian Snares, Eli Degibri (jazz), Jaga Jazzist, Frank Zappa, Mice Parade, Night Ark, John Frusciante, Animal Collective, The Band, Paul Simon, The Presidents of the United States of America, Peter Gabriel, Radiohead, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Shuggie Otis, Tom Waits and 100% collègues (which is a great French band from Toulouse I recently discovered by my host, Julien, when I couchsurfed at his in Auch, France while photographing CIRCA Contemporary Circus Festival last October. They sing in French, Spanish and Arabic. Just great!).
Who are your fantasy dinner party guests?
To be honest it’s the same people I want to photograph. The so-called celebrities. They happen to be celebrities as I see it. I am fascinated by people like that and would love to be able to call them my friends. I wish Sebastian Horsley was still alive. I didn’t get a chance to meet him.
Do you watch cartoons?
I watched some animations by Studio Ghibli lately. Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away. My favourite was Princess Mononoke. Growing up I LOVED Ren & Stimpy. But also Beavis and Butt-head, Freakazoid!, Animaniacs, Futurama, Family Guy, The Moomins and of course The Simpsons.
If I’d think of any cartoons as in “classic cartoons” I would say Charlie Chaplin. It makes sense to me. I would watch a Charlie Chaplin movie any time.
What is an absolute ‘must do’ in London?
I would say… go to a club called Torture Garden. It’s the most interesting club here. The best vibe of all clubs. There’s also White Mischief. Torture Garden is the biggest fetish/dress-up club in the world. White Mischief throw big Steampunk & dress-up parties. Both have live performances and amazing music and scenery…and attract thousands of clubbers each party.
What’s inspiring to you at the moment and how does the future look?
I’m inspired from a lot of film material. I think I will start experimenting more with film and music slowly. Music was always something close to my heart.
I am inspired by thin beautiful women, large spaces and open areas. I also fascinated by contemporary circus. There will be more of all of that. I hope I could travel more for my photography.
I think it will have more essence. I am trying to make myself proud. I’d like to become the next David LaChapelle. The next Terry Richardson / Helmut Newton / Rembrandt / Bach / Tom Waits … I don’t know 🙂 I guess it will include more gallery work and more commercial work. More dance and circus. More nudity and more familiar faces. More risqué and stuff that will make people think it’s wrong, when it’s right.
Thank you Ben!