Thurston Hopkins, photographer
Thurston Hopkins (1913–2014) studied under Morgan Rendle at Brighton College of Art in graphic art and taught himself photography. He joined the PhotoPress agency in the early years of photography being used for news illustration, and continued his interest and understanding of photography during the Second World War, serving with the RAF Photographic Unit. Following the war, he worked as a freelance photographer for Picture Post, working exclusively on the staff from the mid-1950s, and later as an advertising photographer before taking up teaching at the Guildford School of Art. He gained fame as a photographer of urban animal scenes including La Dolce Vita, Knightsbridge, London, 1953 creating the now iconic image of a limousine owner-driver with a poodle sitting upright in the passenger seat. He also photographed working-class children at play in the London streets in an effort to have the need for playgrounds understood. Together with his wife, the photographer Grace Robertson, he retained a close relationship with the photography department at Brighton.
On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Brighton College of Art, at the age of 96, Thurston Hopkins wrote:
“For a number of years now I’ve been alternating some long overdue research into the work I did for the magazine Picture Post with catching up on my painting. When the magazine died in 1957 it left behind only the sketchiest of records, so that when collectors of photography ask me for details of something I did fifty or sixty years ago, answering them can be a very time-consuming business. I also have a close link with Getty Images in London which, from time to time, bikes boxes of prints for me to sign on the spot, here in Seaford. Another painting day gone!
“The one thing that never failed to raise my spirits when I was at boarding school in Sussex was the arrival of the boys’ magazines my parents sent me each week. Although I was an avid reader of the adventure stories, I enjoyed even more studying and copying, in pen and ink, the black and white illustrations that went with them. Later my father drew my attention to the dramatic use of black in the work of Aubrey Beardsley, which further excited my imagination and made me think that sitting at a drawing board, producing my own visual recreations of incidents in stories by writers like Kipling and Somerset Maugham, would be a highly enjoyable way of earning a living. So when my father saw this was a serious ambition he said he would pay the fees if I could get a place in Brighton School of Art.
“When I went for an interview I had with me a portfolio of my work, and it was on the strength of this I was accepted, largely thanks to Morgan Rendle. Rendle, himself an illustrator and Punch contributor, watched over me during my time in the school and among much else he gave me valuable advice on how to approach difficult magazine editors. One thing he insisted on was my regular attendance at the life class. I remember him saying with a smile ‘and don’t just sketch, DRAW’. How right he was. And I’ve never forgotten him saying to me: ‘watch those shadows; they give black and white illustration weight and balance where it is most needed’. This became something of a 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.”
Thurston Hopkins, 2009