THURSTON HOPKINS (1913-2014)

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EAST END, LONDON, 1954 by THURSTON HOPKINS (1913-2014) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

EAST END, LONDON, 1954

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SCARBOROUGH BEACH, 1952 by THURSTON HOPKINS (1913-2014) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

SCARBOROUGH BEACH, 1952

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THE REV. RHINEDORP, VICAR OF PIMLICO, STEPS OUT, 1954 by THURSTON HOPKINS (1913-2014) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

THE REV. RHINEDORP, VICAR OF PIMLICO, STEPS OUT, 1954

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A COLD EVENING IN ISLINGTON, 1950 by THURSTON HOPKINS (1913-2014) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

A COLD EVENING IN ISLINGTON, 1950

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Godfrey Thurston Hopkins was born in south London in April 1913, the son of a writer. After studying at St Joseph's Salesian school, he then went on to Montpelier college, Brighton before training at Brighton College of Art as a graphic illustrator. During his studies he was instructed to "watch those shadows", as they give black-and-white illustration weight and balance where it is most needed. This statement stayed with Hopkins, who stated that he deliberately applied this "leitmotif in my visual thinking, not only when I was making pen-and-ink drawings for provincial newspapers, but also when I began using a camera".

The abdication of Edward VIII in 1936 put an end to Hopkins' early career in graphics, adding decorative frames to portraits of the king. It was a time when newspapers were moving from illustrations to photographs, and Thurston discovered that "the camera paid better than the brush". As a man averse to technology, he developed a particular fondness for his Leica "the first camera I can recall handling without a certain feeling of distaste I loved the absence of the requirement for technical perfection."

Working in the press industry at the outbreak of the Second World War, he joined the RAF photographic unit in 1940, finally acquiring his own Leica. He served in Italy and the Middle East until 1945. However, Hopkins had continued to work for various newspapers and other media at the same time. After finding copies of Picture Post "in every tent and service club overseas", Hopkins hitchhiked around Europe, honing his skills in the perceived tradition of Picture Post and producing a dummy issue composed entirely of his own features.

The launch of Picture Post in 1938, and its surge in popularity in the early 1940s was perfectly times for Hopkins, who disliked the cutthroat practices of Fleet Street. He joined the magazine as a freelancer, finally becoming a staffer from 1950. At Picture Post, writer and photographer went out on a story together, working as colleagues, not competitors. Hopkins had found a creative base inhabited by kindred spirits. He later said "I take the rather unpopular view that words and pictures need one another".

At Picture Post, Hopkins firmly established himself as an incisive and important photojournalist. His preference for straightforward reportage did not stop him bringing his eye for the comic, romantic and cinematic to the magazine. He often staged his pictures, even those that looked incredibly spontaneous. One example of a stage photograph is an iconic image from 1954 of a young boy emerging from a coal-hole in a Native American headdress, taking aim with his toy gun at the camera.

After Picture Post closed in 1957, Hopkins ran an advertising studio in Chiswick, London, for 10 years, later lecturing at Guildford School of Photography. Hopkins settled in Seaford, East Sussex in the 1980s, living there with his wife Grace, until his death in October 2014, aged 101. His work is held in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, the Arts Council, England and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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