Since the sixties, Hoepker (born 1936) has helped define German photojournalism like few others. lnitially, he was a photographer and correspondent, employed by important magazines; but he also became an art director and an internationally renowned Magnum photographer. Today, he is considered one of the most important representatives of engaged and empathic photojournalism; yet, he always humbly refers to himself as a simple assignment photographer; an “image maker” – interested in nothing less than the truth and the authenticity of the moment. As a journalist, he often does more than just photograph “news”: his pictures are always commentaries that condense history into strong individual motifs.
The pictures Hoepker took of Muhammad Ali (1942-2016) in 1966, when on assignment for Stern, are legendary. Together with his wife Eva Windmöller (1924-2002), who was to author the report, Hoepker travelled to London and Chicago.
“Neither of us knew anything about boxing; but we had read reports about this controversial figure, and we thought that it would be nice to spend a few days in London – where Ali was going to fight the British heavyweight champion, Brian London,” Hoepker remembers. Three days before the fight, Hoepker met the boxer in London.
On another trip, Hoepker also met Ali in his familiar Chicago environment. A classic interview with Ali was impossible; so Hoepker and his wife went everywhere with him, whenever possible. “Observing the Champ was always fascinating. Ali could be widely alert, sharp and observant. He loved to saunter down the streets, and banter with real people,” the photographer recalls. “In real life, he was as unpredictable as he was in the ring. He could be charming and charismatic one day; introverted and distant, the next.” The iconic portraits of Ali’s fist were taken here. Hoepker also took another legendary motif on a bridge. “I asked him: would you please climb on that railing? Ali jumped onto the banister, took his shirt off and shouted: ‘l’m the greatest! Want me to jump?’ A split second and I had my picture of Ali flying – just this one click, one chance … “. Hoepker visited Ali one last time in 1997, when the boxer was already suffering severely from Parkinson’s Disease. The photographer handed him an album of his pictures, but Ali was no langer able to remember the occasions.
Exhibited artists: Thomas Hoepker
01.09. – 30.09.2022
Opening Hours: Thursday – Saturday, 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
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