Thomas Hoepker

"Sudden Glory"

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Magnum Photographer Thomas Hoepker’s

First Solo Show in Turkey at Leica Gallery Istanbul

Leica Gallery Istanbul hosts the the first solo show of one of the most acclaimed Magnum photographers Thomas Hoepker in Turkey. The exhibition titled “Sudden Glory” runs  between March 25 – June 3, 2017. The exhibition based on the definition of humor, “a sudden glory”, by 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes and curates on the statement in the catalog text; “We may call humor a sudden glory leading us to greater, more solid ones.”

The exhition brings together Hoepker’s iconic images such as his historical 9/11 shot as well as a series of Muhammed Ali portraits of 1966-67, Hoepker’s work from East Berlin, Malesia, Iran, Portugal, Italy, Chile, Antarctica, China and Venezuela.

The title of the exhibition is inspired by the 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes’s interpretation of humor as “a sudden glory” and the selection offers a chance to revisit the past work of Hoepker as well as historical times for the whole world, with a touch of irony and humour to open doors for new perspectives. The catalogue text below dwells on this issue.

His signed books will be available together with the exhibition at Leica Gallery Istanbul.

About Thomas Hoepker

Thomas Hoepker, born 1936 in Munich/Germany studied art history and archeology, then worked as a photographer for Münchner Illustrierte and Kristall between 1960 and 1963, reporting from all over the world. He joined STERN magazine as a staff photo-reporter in 1964. From 1974 to 1976 he worked with his wife, the journalist Eva Windmoeller, first in East Germany and later in New York, where they moved to work as correspondents for Stern in 1976. From 1978 to 1981 Hoepker was director of photography for the American edition of GEO magazine. Hoepker worked as art director for Stern in Hamburg between 1987 and 1989. Today Hoepker lives in New York. He shot and produced TV documentaries on Easter Island and the glaciers of Argentina, together with his second wife Christine Kruchen.


“Sudden Glory”

“That's part of our policy, is not to be taken seriously, because I think our opposition, whoever they may be, in all their manifest forms, don't know how to handle humor, you know. And we’re humorists, we are–what are they–Laurel and Hardy. That's John and Yoko. And we stand a better chance under that guise, because all the serious people, like Martin Luther King, and Kennedy, and Gandhi, got shot.” John Lennon

The study of humor is not a humorous activity. Comedy does not come easily to our attention because it is innocuous, but not being taken seriously might be a part of humor’s strategy. Like many before us, we may discover unexpected answers in this less studied area

The western world is increasingly using political satire as a form of alternative journalism. Acts of social unrest also heavily depend on this technique through social media and public demonstrations. This indirect language–like art–creates a new space for speech and helps broaden a critical view of the present reality, which at times can be an absolute necessity.

“After the terror attacks on 9/11, there was a sense that comedy had died and we would never be able to laugh again. Comedians were baffled, comedy clubs closed, and no one knew when they would reopen. As we all know, comedy did not die, and though it took a while, comedians slowly got their acts together. Over the years, there were even jokes about 9/11. This seems to confirm what Mark Twain famously quipped: Humor is tragedy plus time,” wrote the psychologist and anthropologist Gil Greengross in September, 2012.

Today comedy is once more a popular channel through which people access political information, one that also offers them an indirect source of power in the bigger picture. For a brief moment, they can laugh at the important faces on TV, making fun of their flaws as if they were high school buddies. Since Aristophanes, known as the Father of Comedy, the power to ridicule has been feared. Mocking politicians is as old as ancient Greece and parody has always served as a way to equalize power dynamics and sugarcoat bitter pills for us to swallow. Both humor and violence provide a momentary feeling of invincibility, but the taste of the latter is far more bitter, as are its consequences. The audience of today’s political theater is surely not a passive observer. One of its most essential tools is mockery.

Exceptional situations call for creative solutions and humor is one of many artful ways of handling conflicts. The great boxer Muhammed Ali had humor and humanitarian values at his core, just like Thomas Hoepker. One day on a training break, Ali greeted Hoepker with a momentary punching pose and his fist became one of the most important shots of Hoepker’s career. Although Muhammed Ali’s life was marked by battles inside and outside the ring, Hoepker portrayed him playfully. As a boxer, Ali was a dancer; instead of putting up his hands, he avoided devastating punches by creating an unprecedented defense system. His alternative method to respond to a violent attack made him an unforgettable hero and resulted in unexpected wins. “He belonged to the arts” said his former opponent George Foreman after his funeral.

Hoepker’s documentation of Muhammed Ali is a unique legacy of a historical figure who became a role model for the crowd. History features many people like Ali with flexible thinking that fueled change in their time; humor, as a way of breaking down barriers, has frequently been used as a tool for propaganda and persuasion. In the 20th-century United States, humor–as well as tolerance and democracy–was seen as an American virtue, in contrast to dictatorships, such as Nazism in Germany or the Communist regime in Russia. These regimes were seen as devoid of humor and laughter, surrounded by strict lines and no color. After reporting to the German news magazine “Stern” between 1974-1976 from East Berlin–as the first photojournalist from West Berlin to enter East Berlin (in the DDR)–Thomas Hoepker was given a chance to live anywhere he wished in the world. DDR was no Pleasantville. So he decided on New York, where he would capture one of the defining photographs of 9/11. However, unlike many others of that day, Hoepker managed to document history depicting both human cruelty and the lightness of human spirit.

Hoepker’s distinctive images have a rather quirky way of looking at political or everyday conflicts. Some might seem controversial, but what good are facts without challenging norms? His recently published book Strange Encounters presents a selection that brings out his humorous side, and it’s no surprise that Eliott Erwitt has written the foreword. Devoting his life to photography, capturing the most tragic events and only capturing the truth, Hoepker used his camera to bring out the humanity in the scenes; to question the so-called infallibility, invincibility, and even flakiness of political power.  Maybe this was also a way to look beyond all that he witnessed in Iran, East Germany, New York, Togo, USSR, Indonesia, China, Ethiopia... He has seen more, photographed more, without sharing it; perhaps some he even refused to photograph. A photojournalist portrays the world as he wants us to see it and in his photographs, Hoepker gently feeds us the truth bit by bit, so we can take it in.

Humor is a gift of nature, a universal language, one that survives time and contributes to our species’ survival. As a very early form of communication in infancy, no wonder laughter comes second only to crying in our first days on earth. Humor maintains this pattern throughout the lifetime of a human being, and this cycle strengthens human stamina like no other medicine. It is probably no coincidence that in Latin “(h)umor” means fluid or liquid, which could also refer to water, medicine or blood. I recently witnessed a widow’s sudden laughter at her husband’s funeral, followed quickly by crying again. As lines between politics and the entertainment industry grow thinner, humor can actually provide some temporary pain-relief and even inspire permanent solutions, if applied the right way. Echoing the 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes, we may call humor “a sudden glory” leading us to greater, more solid ones.

Yasemin Elçi

*Greengross, Gil, Ph.D. "When Do Tragedies Become Funny?" Psychology Today. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.

**BeanymanSports. "George Foreman Reacts To The Death Of Muhammad Ali." YouTube. 04 June 2016. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.

***The Psychology of Humor: An Integrative Approach, Rod A. Martin. Burlington, MA : Elsevier Academic Press, 2007.

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