Why You Should Take Photographic Inspiration From the Paintings of Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper’s paintings are renowned for their use of light, color, and composition. As photographers, what can we take from his work?

Jason Kummerfeldt of grainydays is a huge fan of Hopper and explores where he feels it has had an effect on his own photography. Hopper’s use of light and composition is phenomenal, using golden hour sidelight with contrasting rich and delicate tones, and frequent use of leading lines. As Kummerfeldt notes, Hopper frequently uses subframes, though he wasn't afraid to break those subframes when needed.

There’s certainly a stillness to Hopper that pervades his work — people are often seated or barely moving, and there’s very little of anything actually happening in his paintings. Instead, it’s quiet observation, appreciating the forms and colors, bringing a careful study of geometry that rarely feels cold or lifeless, despite the lack of any movement. 

Mind out for Kummerfeldt’s dry sense of humor and a slightly rude joke just before the 4-minute mark. 

Do you find Hopper’s work a source of inspiration? Does film also have a feeling of physicality that makes you feel like you’re peering into a memory?

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3 Comments

Paul Asselin's picture

Great video. Now you need to view a Edward Hopper painting while listening to Tom Waits (circa 1975) while reading a Harry Bosch novel. Now that's getting into Edward Hopper.

Mini Buns's picture

Now that is some serious Hoppering! It’s probably blasphemous to the purist; however, Mike Geier (He’s actually a Clown “Puddles Pity Party”) has done some interesting covers of Tom Waits songs that have been well received by a younger generation of listeners. All the best.

Mini Buns's picture

I remember back in March at the start of the pandemic.. a meme was going around saying that "we're all Edward Hopper" paintings, now. His work is interesting. It seems that we could learn a lot from Hopper about subject isolation without the use of shallow depth of field.