“We have to seize the moment, think for ourselves, question authority and make a better world” Hoppy
Gallery Vassie is extremely proud to announce the first solo retrospective of photographs by the legendary Hoppy, since his sad and untimely passing in 2015.
This exhibition highlights the insightful, raw and beautiful photographs of John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins, the counter culture guru and documenter of this incredible time of change. He was immersed in the ‘time’, because the ‘time’ was him – he literally embodied the world of the 60’s – the new emerging world of youth culture, the world of social change and freedom. Britain’s fertile and diverse counterculture took much of its inspiration from him, and he was the closest thing the movement ever had to a leader.
Since Addie Elliott-Vassie curated in first exhibition in London in the 90s; Gallery Vassie continued to work closely with Hoppy until his death and we now proudly carry on that relationship with his Archive to continue to exhibit and champion his work. This is the first opportunity to see and buy these newly released prints, many of which have never been exhibited or printed before – so, this is a very special and exciting exhibition!
Hoppy graduated from Cambridge University in 1958 with a Master’s Degree in Physics. As he put it, Hoppy '...discovered sex, drugs and jazz at Cambridge and pursued all three with great diligence.' He briefly worked for the Atomic Energy Authority after graduating, but lost his security clearance following a jaunt to Moscow for a communist youth festival and peace mission, when he was arrested by the KGB.
He resigned and turned to photography, going to London in 1960 and began to work as a photographer for The Sunday Times, The Observer, Melody Maker, Jazz Journal and Peace News. “The Melody Maker because I was into jazz, Peace News because... well, one does.” Hoppy
Hoppy captured the mood of the fast-changing Sixties and photographed The Rolling Stones and The Beatles on their first wave of stardom and in their prime. These portraits evoke the personalities of his subjects through the spontaneous and unpretentious way in which he worked.
“...they (Melody Maker) were having difficulty getting good pictures of The Rolling Stones because the group was so unreliable and they asked me to help,” he said. “We booked a studio for 11am and after five minutes I realised it wasn’t going to work. They were all asleep and they were literally holding Keith up. So, we went off to a cafe for breakfast and that’s where I got the shot of Mick and Keith looking all soft and vulnerable waiting for a cup of tea. They liked it and said that I was the only person ever to have photographed them before lunch.”
Both groups were moving swiftly away from mainstream pop, experimenting with drugs and getting interested in avant-garde art, poetry and Eastern mysticism and Hoppy was there as an informal pilot. “When I look at these old pictures...I just think how young everybody looks.” Hoppy
In stark contrast Hoppy recorded the seediness of the early 60's underbelly of London's Notting Hill, with photographs of grubby tattoo parlours, bikers' cafes and prostitutes in their small bed sits. He worked as a photojournalist for a comparatively short period and by 1965 he began to drift into the London psychedelic scene.
During this time he recorded and was even responsible for many of the diverse events that embodied the Sixties counterculture. Hoppy was one of the most charismatic and influential figures in the London counterculture, that he helped establish during the 1960s. Through his early association with Pink Floyd and his work as a photojournalist and political activist, he became known as the ""King of the Underground"".
He documented peace marches, poetry readings with a naked Allen Ginsberg, and ""happenings"", as well as photographing leading counter-cultural figures and twentieth century icons such as Martin Luther King and Malcolm X in London.
During the mid 1960s Hoppy founded Britain’s first underground newspaper the International Times, funded by a generous donation from Paul McCartney and at it’s height had a circulation of 40,000.
He also co-established a publishing company, promoted Pink Floyd and set up London’s first all-night psychedelic club, the UFO, where Hendrix would call in and jam. During the couple of years up to June 1967, Britain’s fertile and diverse counterculture took much of its inspiration from him, and he was the closest thing the movement ever had to a leader.
Revolutions are, almost by definition, factional, but during those golden years, the working-class anarchists, vaguely aristocratic bohemians, musicians, crusaders, poets and dropouts were united in their respect and affection for Hoppy. That he was seen as leader of this amorphous movement espousing recreational drug-taking, political protest, sexual liberation and “obscene” literature led to his downfall. Hoppy’s flat was raided, a small amount of hashish was found and he was arrested.
At his trial, he attacked the prohibition on drugs and, having been branded a “menace to society” by the judge, was handed a ludicrously vindictive nine-month term in Wormwood Scrubs Prison. Outrage at the sentence inspired a 'Free Hoppy March' to Trafalgar Square, ubiquitous graffiti as well as a full-page celebrity protest in the Times, paid for by Paul McCartney.
“I served six months in the Scrubs. Mick and Keith were also there after their drug bust. I said hello, but they were only there for two or three days. They had friends in all the right places!” Hoppy
As the Sixties drew to a close Hoppy turned towards video and was regularly sponsored by members of both The Stones and The Beatles. Documenting underground subjects such as American political fugitives in Algiers.
Hoppy received video equipment from Lennon, Harrison and Ringo Star, to record a free Rolling Stones concert in London, held shortly after the death of Brian Jones. “Ringo kept his (video equipment) under the stairs, Lennon under the bed with his MBE (Member of the British Empire medal from The Queen).” Hoppy
By the closing years of the 1960s Hoppy had become a pivotal, even legendary figure in the London underground scene. For Hoppy the Sixties offered “....just a great opportunity to take pictures of people I loved for free.”