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Loneliness: Edward Hopper and street photography

March 1, 2019
street photography hopper

Loneliness: Edward Hopper and street photography – Many people feel lonely even in a chaotic city, in the streets and bar among other people. It is really possible to feel alone even when we are surrounded by other people? Often people are lone with their problems and thoughts, sometimes sitting in a bar, sometimes walking on a street, sometimes in a church, sometimes in an hospital, sometimes at home…

“If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.” 
(Jean-Paul Sartre)

What about loneliness in art? Edward Hopper has represented urban loneliness in his wonderful paintings, but also some famous street photographers have captured loneliness in their shots.

In that post i’ll do a parallelism between solitude in Hopper’s paintings and in street photography. Why E. Hopper? Because his paintings about urban loneliness are wonderful and his style as painter is near to street photography. Hopper is like a street photographer with a brush instead of a camera.

Loneliness: Edward Hopper and street photography

Edward Hopper has painted lone individuals in gas stations, diners, hotels, private houses… Other great themes in his paintings are the reletionship between man and nature and the sexual provocation…

Looking at his masterpiece Nighthawks (1942) we can appreciate the cinematic composition, the contrast between lights and shadows. We can hear the silence of the scene, we can feel the loneliness. There are four people  in an all-night diner, no one is talking or looking at others. These individuals are lone with their thoughts, they are distant to each other. Loneliness is the real subject of this painting.

street photography hopper
Edward Hopper

“Why do people have to be this lonely? What’s the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the earth put here just to nourish human loneliness?” (Haruki Murakami)

Hopper has represented “modern solitude” also in other works. When more persons are painted togheter in the same place there is no communication between them.

 

street photography hopper
Edward Hopper

 

street photography hopper
Edward Hopper

 

street photography hopper
Edward Hopper

 

street photography hopper
Edward Hopper

 

street photography hopper
Edward Hopper

Lack of communication, two people alone in the same room…

street photography hopper
Edward Hopper

 

street photogaphy hopper
Edward Hopper

 

What about loneliness in street photography?

Well, as i said before loneliness is also a central theme in street photography. I’ve posted here some wonderful photos taken by famous street photographers in different years and places. In these shots there is a different loneliness from Hopper’s canvas; probably there is more drama than melancholy.

We have to say that people alone in a picture may not be alone in everyday life; sometimes photography is a mystification of reality. While Hopper really wanted to paint persons in solitude.

Let’s start with two shots taken by the father of street photography Henry Cartier Bresson. The first one is more surreal…

street photography hopper
Henry Cartier Bresson, Magnum photos

…while the second one is more classic.

street photography hopper
Henry Cartier Bresson, Magnum photos

 

Let’s see two color shots more similar to Hopper’s painting. This is the great Harry Gruyaert.

street photography hopper
Harry Gruyaert. Magnum photos

 

street photography hopper
Harry Gruyaert, Magnum photos

 

Alone man in a Vivian Maier’s color photo. Wonderful contrast between colored balloons and his dead eyes. We don’t know if he was an happy man in everyday life, but in this shot certainly he looks lonely and sad. Mystification of reality? Looking at his hearing aid we can imagine his isolation from the world.

street photography hopper
Vivian Maier

 

In these two photos taken by Saul Leiter there is loneliness but also drama and sadness. Anyway this is what i feel looking at this wonderful pcitures.

street photography hopper
Saul Leiter

 

street photography hopper
Saul Leiter

A series with minimal shots:

street photography hopper
Martin Parr, Magnum Photos

 

street photography hopper
Josef Koudelka, Magnum photos

 

street photography hopper
Peter Marlow, Magnum Photos

 

A surreal blurred shot by Antoine D’Agata in which the lights contrast with the loneliness of the man.

street photography hopper
Antoine d’ Agata, Magnum Photos

Here is the italian Ferdinando Scianna.

street photography hopper
Ferdinando Scianna, Magnum Photos

 

The concept of modern loneliness, in a Bansky’s stencil on the wall.

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Bansky

 

I like to photograph solitude. Three shots taken by me:

street photogaphy hopper

street photogaphy hopper

street photogaphy hopper

Stay well, have always light in your life

Best, F.S

 

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Surrealism in street photography, painting and cinema

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