Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin


No-one who had any contact with the cinema or TV for the past 40 years cannot not know him.

Whether as the moustachoed Billy sporting buckskin pants and a chopper (“Billy Bike”, what else) in Easy Rider or as Frank Booth, the guy with an inhalation problem and a filthy mouth (his line “Don´t you fucking look at me!” is one of the “100 Greatest Quotes in Cinema” ever) in Blue Velvet or as the mad freelance photographer in Apocalypse Now (where he seems to verge on manic but doesn´t seem to have any name as such) – his face is as unforgettable as his acting was.

Most people are unaware of the fact that apart from being an actor he was a writer and a director, too. The script to Easy Rider was written by him and Peter Fonda (his chopper-riding compadre “Captain America” who was also the movie´s producer) together with Terry Southern. Making a film was a logical continuation of his earlier hobby (or should it be “passion”?): photography.

For years Hopper was running around with a camera – he himself said that he had it around his neck for six years, day and night, non stop. With a Nikon given to him as a present by his first wife, Brooke Hayward, he managed to capture tonnes of scenes involving both very famous faces (Paul Newman, Martin Luther King, Bridget and Peter Fonda or young and still human-looking Andy Warhol among many others) and very simple images (old posters on crumbling fences, Mexican children walking to school, worn-out linen drying on a clothes´ line).

Those pictures, which were considered lost and gone after his death in 2010, were miraculously found again by his daughter. She discovered them in a storage to which Hopper´s things were moved. The altogether 440 images were displayed twice before: in 1970 and 1971 in Texas and California respectively.

Then for years they lay dormant. Until the idea to show them in Berlin was born. You can see them on display in Martin-Gropius-Bau in Niederkirchnerstrasse in Berlin-Kreuzberg.

They might not be the sort of pictures that would sweep you off your feet and make you gasp for air (that inhalation mask and the canister from Blue Velvet most probably shan´t  be needed) but they tell a great story. A story of the times where everything seemed possible and in flux: the hippie times, the black emancipation times, the Hollywood times and the artsy-fartsy times.

The people and the times he captured were real and so are his photos.

And so is Paul Newman whose divine mortal coil AD 1962/3 was chosen by the exhibition´s organisers as the main motive for the exhibition poster. And I shall be lying if I said that it was Hopper´s name that first attracted my attention on it… But I´m glad I went to meet the others, too.


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