A boy tosses a coin into The Lord’s Prayer machine and doesn’t even look, while an unknown beauty beams in a blurry way – a snapshot from 1963, when the German photographer Thomas Hoepker was at the very beginning of his career . To receive an embossed Lord’s Prayer in New York for a 10-cent coin or a one-cent coin – Hoepker developed an eye for the essentials early on, which characterizes his photography.
Thomas Hoepker, born in Munich in 1936, traveled through the USA in 1963 for the magazine “Kristall”. The exhibition “My Way” in the Galerie Buchkunst Berlin in Mitte shows around 20 works from this legendary journey, which established his fame.
With a European perspective, he looks at the poverty and wealth in the United States. He photographs children playing in a wrecked car in the ghetto, finely dressed ladies and people in Manhattan staring straight ahead. The contradiction between the turkey advertisement with the praying family on the big billboard and the tire shop below appeals to him as much as the sea of billboards on the streets.
People rarely look happy, more depressed, and even the various Miss Rodeo stare straight ahead from under their oversized cowboy hats. Much time has passed since then, but much has remained: religiosity, poverty, wealth.
This is also evident in the six large-format color photos from 1983. A concert in Central Park looks like a patchwork rug from above, and two lovers on a street cruiser in front of the silhouette of the Twin Towers in the evening sun seem innocent today. Hoepker later shot the iconic photo of people discussing while the towers were burning in the background.
“I am an image manufacturer” he said almost 60 years ago; however, it never became a mass product. There are only a few shots of each of his motifs. A closer look decides – also about the quality of the picture. After a rigorous selection process, Hoepker was accepted into the Magnum Photos agency in 1989, and he was even president of the agency from 2003 to 2007 – more is not possible in the photo Olympus.
It speaks for him that he is now entrusting his “My Way” work to the agency of the young, committed Galerie Buchkunst Berlin for his 75th birthday – a room with photos that tell stories and invite you to look. In 2020, Hoepker and his wife Christine Kruchen traveled back to the stages of their 1963 road trip, which resulted in the film “Dear Memories”.
Hoepker’s pictures tell of a time when photographs could still be bought in stores, for example in “Magic Joke Books” in New York. On offer: Cassius Clay, whom he accompanied photographically for 30 years, and John F. Kennedy – alongside Laurel and Hardy.