Tim Hopwood




An Insight by Jane Caroline Burt. The trip to Egypt was not for the purpose of taking photogrpahs. Tim and I were there to attend and present at the Millenium Ecosystems Assessment conference. The Millenium Ecosystems Assessment was a global research endeavor called into being by the then United Nations Secretary General Kofi Anan. The aim was to assess the damage we have done to the earth (the hidden text being how this damage limits the earth’s ability to serve us...


... It seemed apt that this conference happened in a once-majestic culture now crumbling.


Tim taught me how to take pictures by example.  I watched him and walked with him and, in time, saw through his lens.  I can never say I see the world that Tim sees with the  same acute critic’s eye and irony, but I got a glimpse of what he was looking for, what he framed.


Susan Sontag writes about photography with the same unafraid, critical voice with which Tim photographs.  She says “all that photography’s program of realism actually implies is that reality is hidden. And being hidden it is something to be unveiled…” She adds “photographers predate implication.”

What did Tim unveil as I followed him around the streets of Cairo and Alexandria, with his spectacled eye scrunched up against the viewfinder?  It was not the Egypt of majestic pyramids, ancient culture, hidden secrets, golden tombs, stories etched in walls, immense libraries.  It may not even have been the sphinx, always looking out over the desert with it’s face distorted, and swarming merchants setting up shop around its feet selling watered down perfume.



... A Hopwood picture of Egypt:  pyramids dissolving into a white glare.  A mangy dog with legs dissolving into the ground walks past.  Pyramids cut up, over-laid, grainy.  The crater-like holes in the pyramids, like mine dumps circling the city of Johannesburg.  There is nothing of the majesty depicted in tourist pamphlets. Instead we are faced with a truth.  An elaborate, decaying tomb, a monument to death (and possibly a fight against death) slowly caving into the ground.


In the city of Cairo, Tim turned his lens to the human subject of Egypt.  People appear not as portraits of ‘a kind of person,’ but as images passing through the frame.  Lives in motion, falling forward into view or exiting to the left onwards, moving outwards.  Shadow-people, hardly there at all. The dust of the desert settles and the footprints of the men and women briefly make their mark, only to be whipped up and blown away in the wind. A mark captured by the lens for a moment.  A snap.  A shot.  A record.  Like the record of the pyramids’ mark upon the earth.  Seen from space.


In Alexandria, the ancient city famous for its burned-down library, Tim took pictures of the beachfront empty of people.  Instead, the beach is inhabited by aging plastic beings that call to mind the darker shades of Walt Disney.  Cracked and faded they sit smiling.  Another era closing.  Another moment passed.


It is a foreign country.  It is also a familiar reflection of the castles we build around ourselves.  Our security walls, our security lives.  Things.  Names of things.  A building secure in its foundations, secure for a moment, a moment’s moment before that one crack shows.  Wherever Tim is and whenever he raises his camera, his eye turns to the underbelly, the unspoken, the unlooked for, the decay of our carefully choreographed lives.  He won’t let us look away.


Tim Hopwood is represented by the PH Centre, Cape Town.

To order prints, contact Simone Tredoux: 021 461 3904, simone@phcentre.co.za, www.phcentre.co.za