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Last April I was contacted by the National Portrait Gallery [writes Jackie Sullivan, Archivist] regarding a planned exhibition of the work of society photographer, Emil Otto Hoppé.
Hoppé had visited Roedean to take informal shots for The Illustrated London News in July 1935 during the school’s Jubilee celebrations. The Gallery hoped I could identify the subjects in several original Hoppé prints as Roedean girls.
Hoppé was unusual among photographers in giving equal prominence to men and women in his work. He was also fascinated by the cultural diversity of his adopted London home and was one of the first photographers to provide a glimpse of the Asian and Caribbean communities living there. During the 1920s he was a pioneer in the new field of photojournalism, regularly providing photos for popular illustrated newspapers and magazines such as The Graphic and later Picture Post.
Fast forward almost a year, and last night I attended the buzzing opening of the exhibition, which features 150 classic Hoppé photographs. The images range from studio portraits of eminent figures of the 1910s-1930s, such as Margot Fonteyn and Rudyard Kipling, as well as more documentary-style studies of ordinary Britons relaxing in parks and at swimming pools.
As I rounded a corner, the crowd shifted and I was thrilled to see the Roedean girls from the 1935 series gazing back at me. The two images which had been selected were the choir picture above and another showing the percussion band.
I congratulated Terence Pepper, Curator of Photographs at the Gallery, on the exhibition and was delighted to learn that the image of the percussion band was one of his personal favourites.
We are still trying to find out the names of the girls who appeared in the photos, so any leads would be most welcome…
In the meantime, the exhibition runs from 17 February – 30 May 2011.