Interview for Mamiya Leaf

I’ve had the pleasure talking to Mamiya Leaf, makers of “Credo 80” – an 80 mega pixel wonder camera I used to photograph my recent project “Natural Beauty”.

Ben Hopper: “It’s like she’s saying ‘I’m confident with my body and I don’t care what you think.'”

London-based Ben Hopper is a consummate fine-art professional performance-focused photographer, with an unstoppable creative energy. End of last year, he started working with the Mamiya Leaf Credo 80 for personal projects. Projects that ‘perhaps wouldn’t usually include the usage of medium format cameras.’

Probably his most-seen work today is the project, “Natural Beauty,” a series of beautiful women shot with arm raised, revealing armpit hair. These images, which were recently published in the Huffington Post, led to so many people trying to access his web site that they literally crashed not only his site, but that of his service provider! The project was grabbed by the biggest publications worldwide bringing millions of views combined.
(original post)

I’d actually been thinking about and experimenting with this project for a few years — since i started doing photography,” Ben told us. “It actually started as a joke. I was hanging out with friends: artists, musicians, painters, filmmakers, and I said, ‘look at all the work that’s really taken off — that’s focused on repetitive subjects. It’s almost as if someone does something so many times they will begin to get recognition for it.

So I thought, ‘what if I get beautiful women showing armpit hair?’ It’s a really strong subject, because it’s such a contrast. You show this beautiful woman who’s so confident, like she’s saying, ‘I’m confident with my body and I don’t care what you think.’ It’s a contrast between conventional beauty and this truly unconventional look. Some people have criticized it saying the models were too beautiful or too skinny or wear makeup, pluck eyebrows and so on — but that’s what helps create the contrast — cognitive dissonance.

For this project, the Mamiya Leaf Credo 80 was a natural choice, because the files are more flexible, and in case we will exhibit these images, we can really push the printing size.

What does Ben have to say to someone who wants to be a photographer? Who wants to pursue it as a livelihood or as a life’s work?

Just do what you love. Do what makes you happy and try not to create work you think other people will like. When people do something they love doing and enjoy doing, other people can feel that passion in the work — it’s more genuine.

Everything that I’ve done that is personal, for myself, has worked. Like this latest project Natural Beauty — it was something I’d thought about and wanted to do, and it went viral. So be true to yourself. And you will find you’re getting hired because of your personal work. Do the stuff that will pay the rent, and keep dreaming up new ideas for yourself.

To date, Ben’s other projects have included a developing collaboration based on the principle of Cymatics with beatboxer and artist Reeps One, in which Reeps One’s voice was connected to a speaker and images were shot showing what happens to a thin film of water sitting on the speaker, as it’s being rippled through by the sound frequency. This project was a part of Reeps One’s solo exhibition in March. Read more about this project here.

Ben is also planning many other projects, from naked masked people in different outdoor locations to unusually posed fully nude physical performers covered in body paint and different powders in his studio — and for that, he believes that the medium format approach makes the most sense, “because we have better details nicer depth of field and more resolution.” Read more about this project here.

It was a very simple decision to choose the Mamiya Leaf Credo. The image quality is so much better than what I can achieve with the 35 mm — it’s not even a question! The resolution, the depth of field — it’s just way more beautiful.

I appreciate the differences that the Credo makes. For example, the Credo is much slower. I’m used to shooting so many more frames with the 35mm DSLR. And the Credo forces me to shoot slower. There are simply less frames per minute. It forces me to concentrate, to slow down. It’s almost a meditative kind of thing.

You can see the original interview here.