Words by Alix Fox
Ben Hopper is a mask-ermind! ‘Naked Girls with Masks’ is the latest project by this hotter-than-wasabi up-and-coming London-based fine art photographer, which features over ten different stunning, 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! Yet in addition to being undeniably sexual, they’re also playful, disturbing, and thought-provoking: 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?
The photographs just exhibited at ACT ART 8, a huge underground group art show, which took place in Angel, Islington on Friday 9th July (www.actart.co.uk)
The project is ongoing, and Ben is looking for journalists who want to report on his work, as well as gallery owners and fine art dealers interested in arranging further exhibitions with him.
The full story behind the photos, resources for reporters, and Ben’s contact info is all listed below.
INFORMATION ON BEN
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 humour, and intriguingly odd-yet-stunning scenarios.
Ben began his quest in 2007. After spending several years working for an Israeli trading company that specialised in importing photographic equipment, the restrictive, business-like nature of the job drove him to breaking point; desperate to unleash his creative spirit, Ben took advantage of the one perk his role afforded him by buying a camera at cost price, then jacked in his job and set off to Europe in search of freedom, adventure and pictures that packed a punch (and that’s punch with an illicit bottle of rum tipped into it). He quickly rose to prominence: images he captured of his brother and his friends – all circus performers in Madrid and around the world – were snapped up by publications all over Europe, while highly respected Australian mag Kurv published Ben’s photos in an exclusive Barbie-themed issue guest-edited by the iconic doll. Multiple exhibitions followed, including a showcase called Miniscule, in which the 200 pieces of art displayed were all smaller than a matchbox. He’s also worked with magazines and newspapers as diverse as Supersweet, Anglomania, and The Chap, in addition to contributing to several books.
“My photographic style is always evolving – I never want to take predictable, jaded pictures – but I particularly love the challenge of working solely with available light, and capturing bodies in motion”, says Ben. “I like every element of my compositions to fascinate; it might the energetic, quirky image of a nude woman in a moose head jumping into the air that first arrests the viewer, but then they notice interesting elements in the background too. I want everything about my photographs to provoke comment and exclamation. And I consider ‘What the fuck..?!’ to be a compliment!”
MORE JUICE ON ‘Naked Girls with Masks’
From an article by Alix Fox in Bizarre magazine, www.Bizarremag.com
‘Just like Jim Carey’s character declares in the movie The Mask, these shots of scorching nekkid chicks in crazy headgear are “Smmmmmokin’!” They’re from a series of images called ‘Naked Girls with MasksNaked Girls with Masks’ (does what it says on the chuffin’ tin, dunnit), by London-based photographer Ben Hopper. “The whole project kicked off back in July of 2009, when I was snapping some pics of a stunning young lady called Cat Chappell and her girlfriend Diana,” explains Ben. “We were at my friend Alan’s house, and he happened to have loads of costumes and masks lying around. Cat’s back is covered in an amazing tattoo by Xed Le Head, who’s famous for inking hypnotic geometrical patterns, so I persuaded her to show if off my stripping to her birthday suit and sticking a mask on her head. I loved the effect; her perfect figure reminded me of the nude supermodels in Helmet Newton’s notorious black-and-white photos, and it was so unusual to see someone reveal their body yet hide their face, when usually it’s the other way round. I sought out other models mostly by using social networking sites, although Hana – who appears wearing both a grotesque scary rabbit head and a Venetian mask – bumped into me at a Torture Garden fetish party. She was wandering around topless with a mask on at the time, so she was made for the job!”
“The various masks came from all sorts of places. An octopus-shaped monstrosity borrowed from a performer named Tom Baker arrived still soaked with his sweat from a show the night before, and another mask was saturated with water: its owner had given it a bath to try and clean off the layers of grime and gunge acquired during an adventurous trip to Download festival that weekend! I got an artist called Skot Reynolds (aka Grave Industries) to transform an Ikea lampshade into a spooky skull headpiece by drawing on it, while Canadian mask-maker Douglas Witt grafted for hours to deliver three custom-made creations to me. I was quite obsessive about the need for masks to cover the models’ faces completely; I wanted to separate the girls’ bodies and brains entirely. This meant that a lot of the mask-crafters had to work at much bigger sizes than they were used to, which was a fun challenge for everyone!”
What’s next for Ben? “I’ve been working with a lot of unusual performers and contemporary circus artists lately, including contortionists and acrobats from world-famous Montreal group The 7 Fingers (Les 7 Doigts de la Main), who are like a renegade version of Cirque du Soleil. Every audience lucky enough to catch their shows inevitably absolutely raves about them – their routines are truly mind-blowing! I’m fixated on the idea of what could be achieved by creating high-end fashion editorials and glossy commercial advertisements with that kind of imagery; supple, sinuous, finely-honed bodies, clad in incredible outfits, and moving in amazing ways or forming surreal-looking shapes…that would look incredibly powerful. Combining all those intensely sense-stimulating factors would result in almost overwhelming pictures. I imagine people flicking disinterestedly through a magazine, then unexpectedly being gripped by the impact of one of my photographs, and it being impossible for them not to sit up and pay attention…and then impossible for them to forget what they’ve seen. I want to create fashion images that make people gasp.”
Ben’s also been focusing on a project involving beautiful women with armpit hair, featuring none other than singer (and fiancée of Neil Gaiman) Amanda Palmer. We’re more ‘Sure’ than a leading brand of underarm anti-perspirant that the resulting photographs will blow us away when they’re unmasked.
HUGE THANK YOU for all models, mask makers, Escapade.co.uk, ACT ART (Oliver & Marc), Alix Fox, Mad Alan and everybody else who helped me to make this happen. If I forgot to mention anyone, I’m sorry! I will probably come back to this post in the near future and update it with more details on the masks, models, locations etc. This project is getting richer by the day with amazing collaborations between beautiful women, amazing masks and kind people who appreciate my art. I am so grateful! Ben x
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