Ben Hopper


Written by Liz Cookman
14 Monday 14th January 2013

Five years ago Ben Hopper was more likely to be found selling a camera than using one. It didn't take him long to catch up though and after conquering London's club scene, the Israel-born photographer is now hoping to bring a whole new dimension to his work, and the photography world, in new project The Illustrated.

How did you get into photography?

I used to work for a company that imported photographic equipment doing a lot of business orientated stuff, but after a couple of years I started to get really bored. I quit a year and a half later and never wanted to do office work again. So I bought a DSLR camera, I liked photography and could get stuff at cost price.

I started taking pictures for fun but later tried to make money from shooting weddings, events, architecture and opened a business with a friend. Then my brother, a circus performer, started introducing me to other performers and I took a lot of pictures of them.

A year later I decided to move to London, that’s when I knew I had to start taking photography seriously. I discovered dress-up parties like White Mischief, they do big Steam Punk events, and the Last Days of Decadence in Shoreditch. That’s how I met many of the unique characters that I still work with today.

Rachel Burn for Dancers on Rooftops

What were your first impressions of London?

I had money for a month when I arrived, not much. I remember walking down Regent Street and saying to myself ‘this is it’. London shapes culture, all of the cultural material that we injected ourselves with back in Israel comes from here and the USA. I felt so excited and motivated.

Betty, Ashka & Cherry for Naked Girls with Masks. Masks by Kris Wlodarski

How did you get involved with Torture Garden?

I had a friend who was a fashion stylist in Israel, she’s a very cool girl and friends with about 400 people from the London fashion industry on Facebook. I added everyone and started chatting to this other girl. When I arrived in October 2008, she said ‘Ben, you have to come to Torture Garden’.

It was the first time I’d ever been to anything like that. I walked around with my eyes wide open thinking ‘I have to photograph this.’ They let me get involved with their next event, the Christmas one.

A lot of your pictures focus on fantasy and fetish, is that an interest of yours?

I photograph what looks good to me, things that I find attractive or interesting, so I guess, yeah. I’m interested in different types of female beauty, human physiques, circus performers, and dancers. I like to create a contrast between something beautiful and something that is random or weird, ugly or grotesque. It emphasises the beauty.

Amanda Palmer for Natural Beauty

You photographed Amanda Palmer fully made-up but with hairy armpits, tell me about that?

I wanted to photograph a whole series of beautiful women or girls with armpit hair. It’s this sort of contrast that I was just talking about: something beautiful with something unusual.

Armpit hair is perceived as dirty and ugly in our culture at the moment. Imagine a fashion model doing a shoot with armpit hair – it seems weird, but it’s natural. Women have hair, it’s just the way they look. Society says they should get rid of it, but my theory is that the beauty companies created this trend to sell more products. Back in the seventies everyone had a full bush.

We took the Palmer shot up the road from her show at the Camden Underworld. She’s so cabaret and yet also very natural, she’s amazing.

Lottie Waldon-Day for Dancers on Rooftops

If you could photograph anyone, who would it be?

I’ve got a shortlist, but it would have to be Tom Waits because he’s one of my favourite musicians and sadly he won’t be around forever. I’d also like to meet Noam Chomsky, Paul Simon and Bob Dylan, the legends I grew up listening to - maybe I could use photography to become friends with them?

Your pictures often focus on movement, are you quite a good mover yourself?

I like to dance but I’m pretty clumsy. I used to do karate, athletics and rollerblading while growing up and snowboard now, but I look at my younger brother and I’m jealous. I’m not that physical. Maybe I’ll start doing yoga or something.

Reeps One for The Illustrated

What’s next for Ben Hopper?

I’m still working on Dancers on Rooftops and all my projects. I’d like to get them published in a book, perhaps an exhibition. I also want to go to the US for a year, there are some alternative models I want to photograph. A lot of them have armpit hair and pubes, it’s a really big trend – New Erotica. They’re very pretty girls, feminine but with body hair. It’s ricocheting into fashion too. I’m still trying to find a way to photograph them as a series.

I'm working on a project called The Illustrated, it’s a collaboration between graphic designers, illustrators and photographers. A painting is much more significant than a photo because it's not a reproducible media, painters create an original. I’m trying to extend my photography and get someone to add another media to it so that I can have an original. I want to break away from photography's boundaries.

For more on Ben Hopper visit his website,

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