Woody Allen had a hit with Zelig, his chamelon who adopts the morphology of people around him in a desire to be accepted. Generations have lost hours, days or even years looking for Wally or Waldo hidden in an illustration of a group of people doing a variety of amusing things at a given location. And it is in line with these two works, though very different, that Rip Hopkins gives us Canada Canada.
A portrait of Canada and Canadians.
Photographic exploration or cinematic fantasy, Rip Hopkins delves into Canada's history and identity for it's 150th anniversary in 2017. From a policeman to a priest, a first nation hunter to an old age pensioner, a tattooed babe to even the inevitable rock star prime minister, these 150 pictures all have one thing in common : the portraitist is hiding in the picture. Rip has Canada Canada's leading role.
Sometimes he makes himself discreet, almost invisible, when he plays the receptionist with the mayor of Ottawa in his office. Or when, in his immaculate valet's uniform, he melts into the white marble wall of the French Embassador to Canada's office. Sometimes, on the contrary, Rip is the centre of attention riding a Harley-Davidson or in a wolf skin that lived on Ottawa's Victoria Island. And as always, Rip takes the picture with a remote control hidden in his hand.
For a European like me in Canada for the first time, everything looks like a film set or as if it has just stepped-out of a scenario. Crossing the road you half expect a car chase or someone with an incredible story to fall into your arms. Canada Canada is heavily inspired by scenes and imagery typical of the Cohen brothers or David Cronenberg films. Each photograph has its own story where everyone plays their own role in their own reality. Real people doing real things in real places, with nothing contrived.
I wanted to get as close as possible to the reality of people’s everyday life, rather like the portraits by Walker Evans (Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, 1941) or Robert Frank (The Americans, 1958). To truly convey reality you need to spend a lot of time with the people you photograph. Time is neccessary for trust to be established, but for this series I lacked time and I’m impatient. To establish connections faster than usual, just like a chameleon, I camouflaged myself within the style, gestures and expressions of those I met. Stripping down to my underwear, my models then dressed me with their own clothes or second-hand ones found in a downtown Ottawa laundromat. I was exposed, vulnerable and cold during this process. My models helped and protected me, accepting and briefly adopting me with their own belongings. This relationship of trust was reinforced when they showed me how I should look, hold myself and behave.
When in front of the camera rather than behind it, I’m on the same level as the people in the photograph: I lose control of the image. We all forget about the camera and concentrate on ourselves and our behaviour. It’s a way of capturing a reality within a frame without being distorted by an out-of-field presence. I do choose the moment with a remote trigger, often taking hundreds of photographs for each scenario, in the hope that at least one image will be good. The whole thing is a bit like a game, it’s fun.
You can be whoever you want in Canada. In fact you can totally reinvent yourself. By immersing myself in other people’s realities, I take on the lives I could potentially have in Canada, as if I was really the person embodied in each photograph. Sometimes my real life on the otherside of the world catches up with me. On one occasion my partner saw me on Facebook, fondly holding the hands of a beautiful woman in a VW Campervan, she definitely wasn’t happy and called right away to let me know exactly what she thought.
Pépita Car from the French Embassy in Canada has driven this project with her contagious enthusiasm and overwhelming energy. Without hesitation Pépita knocked on strangers’ doors to ask them to join the project, to give an hour or two of their precious time out in the freezing cold, to lend us the clothes off their backs, their shoes off their feet and take all their stuff out of the shed. And to my astonishment the Canadians, generous and patient, always replied "Sure why not?!"
This series of 150 photographs represents the participation of both France and the United Kingdom in Ottawa 2017, Canada's 150th anniversary.
© Rip Hopkins 2017
With the April 2017 show in Ottawa and all over Canada, this accumulation of strangely intimate and disconcerting portraits is going to make a book, all thanks to you ! A book immortalising today’s Canadians and Canada like you’ve never seen, expected or imagined it before.
The book is beautifully made. Filigranes Editions is considerered as being France's avant-garde publisher of photography books. The book will be printed by Die Keure in Bruges (Belgium), one of Europe's best printers with an obsession for detail and quality. Thick, big and very heavy, this book is above all fun. Even if you don't care about photography, Canada, or Rip, you'll still enjoy it!
Its your money that will make this book exist. How often do you get the chance to give birth to a book in just one click and get it at a bargain basement knock down price - half the shop price ?
- 165 x 240 cm
- 4 colours 350g/m2 Magno gloss
- cover Pantone colour
- 320 pages
Each book is one of a kind !
Don’t judge the book by its cover, because they’re all different. We’ve chopped up the Canadian maple leaf, serving it up to you on each cover just the way you like it – different.
Rip Hopkins – main role
After working for many years with Doctors Without Borders, Rip is still looking for new fields of experimentation and artistic challenges. Whether it's portraits or landscapes, his unusual style juggling between documentary photography and art, always puts people at the centre of his work.
Patrick Le Bescont – director
A long time friend and fan, Patrick has accompanied many of Rip's crazy projects. Patrick is also the founder and director of Filigranes Editions, an audacious French publishing house specialising in quality photography and printing.
Pépita Car – producer
It takes a spark for each engine. Pépita was the initiator and brains behind this adventure. From the beginning to the end, Pépita was a one-(wo)man band. Producer, driver, author, researcher - she did everything. Working at the French Embassy in Canada, she travelled to-and-fro between her office and the crime scenes.
Jean-Charles Bassenne – chief cameraman
On graduation from Besançon School of Fine Arts, Jean-Charles has worked with many design studios - notably Apeloig studio. He now works as an independant graphic designer in Paris.
Christophe Caudroy – editor
When he's not on the other side of the world taking photos for a project or with his students at Ecole Louis Lumière, Christophe is a photographer based in Paris. For more than ten years Christophe has been Rip's photo angel rescuing Rip's images from dire straits, because let's face it Rip has no idea about photoshop!
Valérie Bournet – production designer
Valérie is an actress and co-director of the Agency of Imaginary Voyages, one of France's main theatre troupes. She will be designing and setting up our exhibtion in Ottawa - that is when she's not egging on the team to take the project even further!
*** Project developed with the support of Ottawa 2017! ***