Hopper, Weegee and Me

by Stefan Fletcher May. 21, 2009 5209 views

Those of you who have read this post [photoblog.com] know that I like the Raymond Chandler / Ellroy James world view; that cynical, terse yet lyrical, Manichaean and profoundly pessimistic approach to life is so rich and so fascinating. What’s more, anything that takes itself so seriously is screaming out for parody.

It’s inevitable that Hopper’s iconic Nighthawks painting would appeal to me. Those brightly lit people, all alone and not talking to each other, in a dark, empty world epitomise the whole Chinatown, L.A. Confidential, Maltese Falcon ethos for me. Even the painting is very grainy in a film-like way and it should come as no surprise that it and the Maltese Falcon are contemporaneous.

I was at a loose end tonight. Perhaps unfortunately (for me, at least), I have an encyclopaedic knowledge of Athens’ bars and there’s one whose long, pure lines and empty volumes are very evocative of Hopper’s work. This place is a photographer’s dream. It’s called “Hell’s Kitchen” and these are some of the pictures I took tonight. Its name, proximity to a very seedy part of town and the incongruity of it (it’s actually a very friendly place in the most unlikely setting) just made it a must.

They were rather flattered that someone should turn up with a camera, tripod and all the paraphernalia of a ‘serious’ photographer and express the wish to compare their restaurant bar with a Hopper painting. They won’t be best pleased when I show how much I emphasised the emptiness.

I initially wanted to do Weegee-style harsh flash photography, but I wasn’t comfortable with the results. Besides, there were no dead bodies to hand, but I’ve kept him in the title for the euphony.

I tried to emulate the lighting, colours and graininess of the oil painting - it's the sincerest form of flattery after all - right down to adding noise and blurring my camera's razor-sharp captures. Somehow, monochromes struck me as moving away from the original idea. Well, you be the judge. There was a great capture of the surprisingly photogenic chef and the waiter turning away from each other, marred most unfortunately by the waiter's striking resemblance to a bearded John Lenon, so it was cut from this post. Oh well…

There won’t be a Friday fun post, so I’ll wish you all a happy and relaxing weekend now. If you’re at a loose end, why not rent the Maltese Falcon?

Why oh why can't you wear a Homburg?

I know: this one's a bust

Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, oil on canvas,1942

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Lynda 10 years, 8 months ago

I'm a big fan of Hopper and this is a charming tribute to the best known of his works. If you haven't seen it you'll really enjoy 'Far from Heaven' with its Hopper references. It created the 1950s "look" by using the same type of lighting equipment (incandescent), the same lighting techniques, and the same type of lens filters when shooting the film, as would have been used on a 1950s era melodrama. It is an artistic masterpiece.

10 years, 8 months ago Edited
Eric J H Joyce 10 years, 8 months ago

Very nice post.

10 years, 8 months ago Edited
Lynda 10 years, 8 months ago

A year ago I saw a Hopper exhibit??wonderful collection that included some unhopperlike( that's my own invention) scenes. Conclusion: we're not always in the same place.

10 years, 8 months ago Edited
Ivan 10 years, 8 months ago

Very interesting post! You are great mood creator, Whole set was in a very cosy ambient. Love the #2&3 a lot, especially I love the kitchen's astmosphere of #3. Thanks for your post.

10 years, 8 months ago Edited
Jarvo J 10 years, 8 months ago

Great post, I think you've created the spirit very well.

10 years, 8 months ago Edited
Jordijoan 10 years, 8 months ago

Tus fotos son maravillosas y tu trabajo me encanta...eres un auténtico maestro !!!

10 years, 8 months ago Edited
Dorothe 10 years, 8 months ago

Interesting set. The lines of No 5 are similar to Hopper. After a blue week I must say, in your shot is too much blue. I like No 4, asking what they are talking about.....

10 years, 8 months ago Edited
Ricardo 10 years, 8 months ago

i like 5# - its colors are really stunning, and just shows full of mood!

10 years, 8 months ago Edited
Piyali 10 years, 8 months ago

Great inspiration and very well executed, I am just missing 'that' shot from outside..and the people in your shot has somebody to talk to--not really lost in their own small world.

10 years, 8 months ago Edited
Thebronzebow 10 years, 8 months ago

Even though it's lit much differently, I think #2 has a similar feel of space, line and shadow. Great idea!

10 years, 8 months ago Edited
Doris 10 years, 8 months ago

Bravissimo!
Interesting "essay" and good shots - I agree to dontblink, I`m curious for an outdoor-shot.The comparison between the fifth and Hopper is very successful!The fourth doesn`t fit so well into the series - it has a very "cosy", intimate atmosphere, not comparible to the others (in my opinion)

10 years, 8 months ago Edited
Marsha 10 years, 8 months ago

Really like the second one - lots of interest there and the lighting gives some "end of day/beginning of evening" moodiness. Love the candles on the tables and the shadows and reflections on the floor. Your idea of emulating a famous painter using photography is very intriguing!!

10 years, 8 months ago Edited
Michael Sakowicz 10 years, 8 months ago

I think one and two are the best overall shots, even considering what you may have been trying to accomplish versus what you did accomplish. They are great perspectives, lighting and all the stuff. I also like shot six... Oh wait a minute, that's Hopper... Never mind. =D
Have a great weekend.

10 years, 8 months ago Edited
Brian 10 years, 8 months ago

Did you have any closer shots from outside? It looks like 4 and 5 would have been interesting from outside looking in although maybe the customers may not think so:)
I actually like the lighting of 5 the best which most closely resembles the painting and again would like to see it from the outside.
Interesting and fun set!

10 years, 8 months ago Edited
Jacki 10 years, 8 months ago

lol...last month a local arts theatre had a film noir series including Maltese Falcon and Chinatown. My husband announced before we left for Maltese Falcon that everything a boy needs to learn to become a man, he can learn from Maltese Falcon! :)

I think the second is my favorite shot... lots of great composition of the empty space then the small figures up against the front window... just a little more light in that area would have been perfect! Nicely done, looks like a fun night!

10 years, 8 months ago Edited
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