Dennis Hopper, 1936 – 2010

Posted: May 31st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Cinema, Film, Los Angeles, Nikon, Photography, Quotes

Paul Newman, 1964 © Dennis Hopper

Paul Newman, 1964 © Dennis Hopper

I was a compulsive shooter back then. I was very shy, and it was a lot easier for me to communicate if I had a camera between me and other people.

-Dennis Hopper

Paris Woman, 1994 © Dennis Hopper

Paris Woman, 1994 © Dennis Hopper

I had been taking photographs because I hoped to be able to direct movies. That’s why I never cropped any of the photographs; they are all full-frame.

-Dennis Hopper

Jane Fonda, 1967 © Dennis Hopper

Jane Fonda, 1967 © Dennis Hopper

Like all artists I want to cheat death a little and contribute something to the next generation.

-Dennis Hopper

Bill Cosby (Chateau Marmont), 1965 © Dennis Hopper

Bill Cosby (Chateau Marmont), 1965 © Dennis Hopper

… but I was trying to go another way from the movie business. And I was taking pictures in black-and-white. Everyone else was using color. I was using Tri-X because I could shoot at night, and get shots by holding it real still, with just streetlights and so on. So these were things that I was playing with. But at the same time, a lot of my ideas were glamour ideas, because I wanted people to look good. So my portraits were about them in natural light, looking good, and looking in some way that had something to do with the reality of their world.

-Dennis Hopper

Jefferson Airplane, 1965 © Dennis Hopper

Jefferson Airplane, 1965 © Dennis Hopper

There are moments that I`ve had some real brilliance, you know. But I think they are moments. And sometimes, in a career, moments are enough. I never felt I played the great part. I never felt that I directed the great movie. And I can`t say that it`s anybody`s fault but my own.

-Dennis Hopper

Robert Rauschenberg, 1966 © Dennis Hopper

Robert Rauschenberg, 1966 © Dennis Hopper

You know, the history of California art doesn’t start until about 1961, and that’s when these photographs start. I mean, we have no history out here.

-Dennis Hopper

Brian Jones, 1965 © Dennis Hopper

Brian Jones, 1965 © Dennis Hopper

Most of the guys who were heavy on drugs and stuff — the rockers, and all that — we’re all out playing golf and we’re all sober. It is weird.

-Dennis Hopper

Tuesday Weld, 1965 © Dennis Hopper

Tuesday Weld, 1965 © Dennis Hopper

The high points have not been that many, but I’m a compulsive creator so I don’t think of the children first, I think of the work. Let’s see, I guess, Easy Rider, Blue Velvet, a couple of photographs here, a couple of paintings . . . those are the things that I would be proud of and yet they ’re so minimal in this vast body of crap — most of the 150 films I’ve been in — this river of shit that I’ve tried to make gold out of. Very honestly.

-Dennis Hopper

Jean Tinguely, 1963 © Dennis Hopper

Jean Tinguely, 1963 © Dennis Hopper

Then I had Easy Rider, and I couldn’t get another movie, so I lived in Mexico City for a couple of years. I lived in Paris for a couple of years. I didn’t take any photographs, and then I went to Japan and saw a Nikon used. I bought it, and I just started, like an alcoholic. I shot 300 rolls of film. That was the beginning of me starting again, and then I went digital.

-Dennis Hopper

Biker Couple, 1961 © Dennis Hopper

Biker Couple, 1961 © Dennis Hopper

I’d love to be in a Coen Brothers film, or something by Curtis Hanson — did you see 8 Mile? a terrific little movie — but I’ve never worked for Lucas or Spielberg. You could name most of the directors in Hollywood I’ve never worked for. I am not offered any of the roles that Jack Nicholson gets or Warren Beatty gets, or any of these people get, and never have been and never will. So when you ask me about playing villains and would I like to play other things, I think, God, I’m just lucky if I get a villain part every once in a while.

-Dennis Hopper

Biker, 1961 © Dennis Hopper

Biker, 1961 © Dennis Hopper

I think of that with my photographs. I think of them as ‘found’ paintings because I don’t crop them, I don’t manipulate them or anything. So they’re like ‘found’ objects to me.

-Dennis Hopper

Bruce Conner (in tub), Toni Basil, Teri Garr and Ann Marshall, 1964 © Dennis Hopper

Bruce Conner (in tub), Toni Basil, Teri Garr and Ann Marshall, 1964 © Dennis Hopper

When it first started, it was inferior and the inks weren’t archival. As soon as the inks became archival, I went digital. To me, it’s like the difference between developing something in chemical or being able to spray the light. It’s like painting with light, and the computer is reading the light. When a digital photograph looks right, it looks like it was painted.

-Dennis Hopper

Claes Oldenburg (Portrait with Cake Slices), 1965 © Dennis Hopper

Claes Oldenburg (Portrait with Cake Slices), 1965 © Dennis Hopper

I started out shooting flat, on walls, so that it had no depth of field, because I was being photographed all the time as an actor. And if you notice, there aren’t a lot of photographs [in the show] of actors — Dean Stockwell, Paul Newman. I thought I was an imposition to the actors who were being photographed all the time. I really wanted the flat-on-painter kind of surface. I did that for a long time. Then the artists. I really started taking photographs of artists. They wanted me to take photographs. They wanted posters and things. I was hanging out with them. I photographed the ones I thought were going to make it. I wasn’t really working as an actor during this period, and I thought, Well, if I’m not going to be able to work as an actor, I might as well be able make something that’s going to be credible. So I took photographs of Martin Luther King and Selma, Montgomery, as history, and selecting artists that I thought would make it. I met most of the Pop artists before they ever had shows.

-Dennis Hopper

Andy Warhol and members of the Factory (Gregory Markopoulos, Taylor Mead, Gerard Malanga & Jack Smith), 1963 © Dennis Hopper

Andy Warhol and members of the Factory (Gregory Markopoulos, Taylor Mead, Gerard Malanga & Jack Smith), 1963 © Dennis Hopper

I didn’t use a light meter; I just read the light off my hands. So the light varies, and there are some dark images. Also, I’m sort of a nervous person with the camera, so I will just shoot arbitrarily until I can focus and compose something, and then I make a shot. So generally, in those proof sheets, there are only three or four really concentrated efforts to take a photograph. It’s not like a professional kind of person who sets it up so every photograph looks really cool.

-Dennis Hopper

Ed Ruscha, 1964 © Dennis Hopper

Ed Ruscha, 1964 © Dennis Hopper

Well, I was a compulsive creator, so it became my creative outlet. I was using Tri-X film — which nobody else was using at the time — because I wanted to get as much natural light as possible and be able to shoot everything in natural light without flashes. I was a product of the movie business …

-Dennis Hopper

Irving Blum and Peggy Moffitt, 1964 © Dennis Hopper

Irving Blum and Peggy Moffitt, 1964 © Dennis Hopper

I was doing something that I thought could have some impact someday. In many ways, it’s really these photographs that kept me going creatively.

-Dennis Hopper

Self-portrait at porn stand, 1962, © Dennis Hopper

Self-portrait at porn stand, 1962, © Dennis Hopper

I am just a middle-class farm boy from Dodge City and my grandparents were wheat farmers. I thought painting, acting, directing and photography were all part of being an artist. I have made my money that way. And I have had some fun. It’s not been a bad life.

-Dennis Hopper


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33 Comments on “Dennis Hopper, 1936 – 2010”

  1. 1 Remembering Dennis Hopper’s photography | dvafoto said at 8:09 am on June 1st, 2010:

    [...] (via Chasing Light) [...]

  2. 2 Jackie said at 9:13 am on June 1st, 2010:

    Wow. Thank you for this.

  3. 3 Stuff I Like (6/1/10) « The Home Beete! said at 10:24 am on June 1st, 2010:

    [...] the excesses of the 70s and 80s, but an amazing eye, which resulted in sometimes gritty, always stunning images of the famous, the infamous, and everyone in between. (via Chasing [...]

  4. 4 Trina said at 12:20 pm on June 1st, 2010:

    These are some really nice images from Mr. Hopper. I especially like the first image of Paul Newman. Such a moment in time. BTW love your blog! Thanks for sharing :)

  5. 5 Single-Serving Photo – Dennis Hopper, Farmer’s Son, Actor… Photographer?! said at 4:15 pm on June 1st, 2010:

    [...] “Chasing Light” blog has a wonderful post containing photos that Hopper took through the years (all of them black and white). I was very [...]

  6. 6 carmen said at 10:16 pm on June 1st, 2010:

    Learned a little more about an art figure. Thnx

  7. 7 Leia said at 2:25 am on June 2nd, 2010:

    his art exhibition in melbourne was amazing!

  8. 8 Dennis Hopper does photograhy said at 4:38 am on June 2nd, 2010:

    [...] And he does it well. [...]

  9. 9 Wednesday, Wednesday, Wednesday | theprintspace blog said at 7:14 am on June 2nd, 2010:

    [...] in the world of photography… • Photography of the late American actor Dennis Hopper, who died last [...]

  10. 10 ajw93 said at 9:31 am on June 2nd, 2010:

    Fantastic. He’ll be missed.

  11. 11 Theresa said at 2:04 am on June 3rd, 2010:

    “Like all artists I want to cheat death a little and contribute something to the next generation.” Dennis Hopper
    I think he did.

  12. 12 A Friday Pause « Zebra Sounds said at 4:11 am on June 4th, 2010:

    [...] realized that he was a photographer and painter as well as an actor/director. Here are some of his photographs, and (to me at least as interesting) some of his own musings about his life and [...]

  13. 13 Teofila Garden said at 6:04 am on June 5th, 2010:

    UN GRAND ACTEUR NOUS A QUITTE JE SUIS SI TRISTE TOUTES NOS PENSEES VOUS A SES PROCHES

  14. 14 Lee Stevens said at 8:48 pm on June 6th, 2010:

    “Act Well your part”,that you did with passion and a unique style.You will be missed.

  15. 15 Fathom said at 1:50 pm on June 11th, 2010:

    Wow. I never knew he was a photographer. Very interesting pictures. RIP.

  16. 16 Michael Carter said at 11:20 pm on June 14th, 2010:

    This is a beautiful tribute. There was so much more to Dennis Hopper than the guy in those movies. It makes me wish I had appreciated him more when he was alive.

  17. 17 The Ghost said at 11:16 pm on June 18th, 2010:

    The Pilgrim: Chapter 33

    “I started writin’ this song about Chris Gantry, Ended up writing about Dennis Hopper and Johnny Cash, Norman Norbert, Funky Donnie Fritts, Billy Swann, Bobby Neuwirth, Jerry Jeff Walker and Paul Siegel. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott had a lot to do with it.

    See him wasted on the sidewalk in his jacket and his jeans,
    Wearin’ yesterday’s misfortunes like a smile–
    Once he had a future full of money, love, and dreams,
    Which he spent like they was goin’ outta style–
    And he keeps right on a’changin’ for the better or the worse,
    Searchin’ for a shrine he’s never found–
    Never knowin’ if believin’ is a blessin’ or a curse,
    Or if the goin’ up was worth the comin’ down–

    He’s a poet, he’s a picker. He’s a prophet, he’s a pusher.
    He’s a pilgrim and a preacher and a problem when he’s stoned.
    He’s a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction,
    Takin’ every wrong direction on his lonely way back home.

    He has tasted good and evil in your bedrooms and your bars
    And he’s traded in tomorrow for today.
    Runnin’ from his devils, lord, reachin’ for the stars
    And losin’ all he loved along the way.
    But if this world keeps right on turnin’ for the better or the worse,
    And all he ever gets is older and around–
    From the rockin’ of the cradle to the rollin’ of the hearse,
    The goin’ up was worth the comin’ down–

    He’s a poet, he’s a picker. He’s a prophet, he’s a pusher–
    He’s a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he’s stoned–
    He’s a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction,
    Takin’ ev’ry wrong direction on his lonely way back home.
    There’s a lotta wrong directions on that lonely way back home.

    -Kris Kristofferson

  18. 18 john said at 7:35 pm on June 30th, 2010:

    Actually, these are for the most part, mediocre photos at best. What makes them interesting is that they were taken by an named actor and more so, that he had access to people most others would not. That made them enjoyable.

  19. 19 Ralev said at 8:37 am on July 6th, 2010:

    That’s really a great post.
    I didn’t know Dennis was shooting.

    Yes, pictures are enjoyable because of many things… but who are we to give labels like mediocre ?
    Does some cheesy artificial light makes the magazine pictures more “professional”. Or may be the photoshop retouch ?
    It’s all about the mood and only other artists really can appreciate it.
    These photos are nice and interesting.
    10x for sharing!

  20. 20 Dave Guraen said at 1:52 am on July 12th, 2010:

    Last year the Albuquerque Film Fest gave him a life time achievement award. I am looking forward to this next months festival. I am sure there will be some nice tribute.

  21. 21 Hey, man, you don’t talk to the Colonel. You listen to him. « said at 9:27 am on July 13th, 2010:

    [...] Apparently Dennis Hopper wasn’t too far off his character in Apocalypse Now and always had a camera on him. It’s a mix of famous people from the 60s and 70s, and random bikers he seems to have met, check it out. He joins The Dude/His Dudeness/Duder/El Duderino as one of my favourite documentary photographers – mix a reasonable level of skill with an unique access to subjects other photographers can’t access. Check out more of his stuff here. [...]

  22. 22 william said at 6:32 pm on July 29th, 2010:

    I have never liked his acting except for Blue Velvet. He was PERFECT for that role. Every time I see a movie with Dennis Hopper in it, I watch something else. And then… I listened to him explain the modern art movement in the US. And NOW I see his photography. Sorry Dennis. I was wrong about you. You ARE extremely talented.

  23. 23 Diaper man said at 3:48 am on August 1st, 2010:

    beautiful stuff !!!

  24. 24 Disgruntled said at 5:39 pm on December 7th, 2010:

    Stumbled on this blog, got a javascript attack and my antivirus had to stop it.

    Never coming back here again!

  25. 25 billyt said at 2:47 am on May 14th, 2011:

    Enjoyed very much looking at his work. I was lucky enough to have met him one time….I said….I am told I look like you…..his response—as he raised his right hand and pointed at me like shooting a gun from the hip…….Brother! Thanks for the memory Dennis and thank you for sharing yours..

  26. 26 Strande Henry said at 3:55 pm on May 17th, 2011:

    Happy Birthday Dennis!!!!!

  27. 27 Vitro Nasu » Blog Archive » Dennis Hopper – The Last Movie & Photos said at 11:32 pm on May 17th, 2011:

    [...] Jean Tinguely [...]

  28. 28 jim bauerlen said at 11:49 pm on May 17th, 2011:

    I really had a surface sense of Hopper until I read and looked at this, now I really like and respect the guy and have to suffer all my past snide remarks…thanks

  29. 29 hearty magazine | Vans x Dennis Hopper said at 1:46 pm on August 15th, 2011:

    [...] a talented photographer. His work includes many famous portraits throughout the 1960′s like Jane Fonda and Paul Newman. Before Hopper’s passing, Vans had the opportunity to collaborate with him on a capsule [...]

  30. 30 Vans x Dennis Hopper | canada goose for women said at 5:46 am on August 29th, 2011:

    [...] a talented photographer. His work includes many famous portraits throughout the 1960′s like Jane Fonda and Paul Newman. Before Hopper’s passing, Vans had the opportunity to collaborate with him on a capsule [...]

  31. 31 Chasing Light & Blog Archive & Dennis Hopper, 1936 – 2010 « Meme Park said at 12:27 am on April 6th, 2012:

    [...] Chasing Light & Blog Archive & Dennis Hopper, 1936 – 2010 Posted by Memeo at 11:22 am | (0) Comment http://blog.ricecracker.net/2010/05/31/dennis-hopper-1936-2010/ [...]

  32. 32 jacques said at 6:03 am on June 23rd, 2012:

    Dennis Hopper is a talent

  33. 33 LEO NEMO L’ ÉTERNITÉ ROMAN Livre Quatre Chapitre 138 Mais où est donc O.R. ? | LEO NEMO L' ÉTERNITÉ ROMAN said at 4:33 pm on May 17th, 2014:

    […] Paul Newman, 1964 © Dennis Hopper […]


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