gallery opened in Chelsea on October 1st 1993. Michael was a photographer with more than twenty years experience, and a long time collector of fine photography. In November 2000, Michael Hoppen Contemporary opened and has since established itself in the vanguard of the contemporary photography market. Michael also provides a platform for artists who work outside the established art world and supports a program publishing monographs under the name of â€˜Guiding Lightâ€™. Additionally, Hoppen collaborates with publishing houses and museums such as Phaidon, Steidl and the Fotomuseum in Den Haag. Important corporate clients include: British Airways, GAP, Cantor Fitzgerald, Polo Ralph Lauren, NM Rothschild & Sons, Citibank, The Elton John Collection, Goldman Sachs, Bank Cantrade AG, Syz Bank and museums such as the Metropolitan and the Guggenheim, New York; the V&A, and Houston Museum of Fine Arts.
What is the first photographic image you can remember and why?
I think it was a picture of me in a rickshaw with my father in Africa when I was about 4! The first picture I remember being something other than a family picture was by Sam Haskins, of a girlâ€™s face superimposed on an apple.
Do you own a camera and do you take photographs yourself?
I used to be a professional photographer, so I am well equipped, Hassleblad, Leicas and Sinars, most of them very unused now! I still use my Leica M6 â€“ but not professionally â€“ I donâ€™t like digital at all although I do own a few of those as well for convenience, almost like a sketchbook. I wish I could take great pictures â€“ but I canâ€™t â€“ itâ€™s very, very difficult!
What sort of impact has digital had on the specialist photography gallery?
Not good. I donâ€™t think digital cameras are nearly ready to replace analogue yet. The only cameras that come close are very expensive and the printing issues are numerous. Black and white silver gelatin prints are simply better â€“ and no comparison to digital â€“ yet. Things may change though. The main issue is the fact that a hand made object has a quality that digital does not â€“ and no â€“ I donâ€™t think Iâ€™m old fashioned. I love platinum prints which are on a matt art paper and these always vary slightly â€“ digital are production line and tend not to look as crafted as the â€˜realâ€™ thing.
With a creative process that is easily duplicated, what value (aesthetic and financial) can any single image have today?
You could say the same about a bronze sculpture, an etching etc. And I donâ€™t believe a great print is â€˜easilyâ€™ duplicated. Also, limiting prints makes sense. But you must stick to it. We are giving a strip of the negative away with each print we sell in the next show. Thatâ€™s pretty final.
In commercial terms, is there a perceived divide between digital and film?
I do think that this depends on the image and the artist. If the original
concept was an analogue print in black and white - then the analogue print
(wet print) will at present always look better if the paper size etc. is
available. Colour however is a different matter - a digitally manipulated
colour image (intended from concept to execution) is made via lightjet or
lambda - then I think it is better, as are pigment prints or cabro.
Value will always depend on the artist's standing, edition size, quality
etc. This is a market force and a quality issue - so nothing really to
do with process - but ink/giclee is not something we like at present.
Do photographs change over time? (for example: can a mundane image become enhanced just because it was taken 100 years ago)
Yes â€“ absolutely. They are historical documents. What seems banal and mundane today â€“ will inevitably seem extraordinary later on in history. I suspect pictures of traffic jams today will seem quite peculiar in 100 years! Same with a fashion imageâ€¦who would have thought someone would want a fashion picture from the 50â€™s badly enough to pay over $350,000?
Who would you say were the future â€˜Mastersâ€™ of the photographic art practising today?
Desiree Dolron, Trent Park, John Davies, Koichi Kuritaâ€¦ just to name a few.
There is a fusion today of art and photography, exemplified perhaps by the manipulated image. Has pure photography been marginalised by this?
No not at all â€“ it is another way of looking, making a picture â€“ itâ€™s different and suits a different taste and vision.
What should the would-be collector look for in a photograph (or indeed, a photographer)?
Timelessness and quality of print.
If we could gift you a single image that has special meaning for you what would it be and why did you choose it?
A Lartigue â€“ because I would never get bored of it. He was the greatest amateur. Probably a portrait of Renee Pearl