Dennis Hopper is most fondly remembered for directing and acting in the iconic Easy Rider, arguably his greatest film in a long and successful Hollywood career. However, he was also a keen photographer and between 1961 and 1967 he documented all that he saw, taking an estimated 18,000 photographs. This exhibition pulls together well over 100 of these images, which cover his travels within the USA and abroad.
The show opens with several images of the celebrities he met and hung around with across the arts, including David Hockney, Paul Newman and Ike and Tine Turner. Though there are a few well composed shots in this series, they are probably the weakest images in the exhibition. This had us worried that this would be a very similar exhibition to the recent David Bailey show, but Hopper demonstrates he has a more diverse portfolio.
The photographs act as a historical record offering up Martin Luther King speaking, hippie culture, Hell’s Angels and even space exploration viewed through pictures of television screens. Where Hopper excels is capturing the everyday, such as a homeless man or children playing in slums, contradicting the often rose-tinted view many people hold of the 60’s.
There are also more abstract works like the shadow of a girl on a swing, close-ups of tattered posters and chains casting shadows on the doors they are attached to. These more artistic shots demonstrate a great eye for composition and were our favourites in the exhibition.
This exhibition is a very personal narrative of one man’s experience over six years, and despite the disappointing celebrity photographs at the beginning the subtler shots later on in the show are its saving grace and highlight Hopper’s talent behind the camera.
Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album is on at the Royal Academy of Arts until 19 October. Tickets are £10 for adults, concessions available. Also still on at the Royal Academy is their best edition yet of the Summer exhibition.