E. O. Hoppe’s Snowdonia

E.O.Hoppe, was originally a native from Germany. He moved to London in 1900 and became perhaps the most famous British photographer living in the first half of the 20th Century. It was said of him that “in many ways, Hoppé is like his great contemporary Cartier-Bresson, in that he makes the ordinary extraordinary.” Hoppe was a great social photographer and his many works show an aspect of British life not usually appreciated by historians.

That may well be because E.O.Hoppe’s work has not been well known until recently. A recent exhibition of Hoppe’s photographs at the National Portrait Gallery in London made a much wider audience aware of his work. Sadly not one of his works featuring Snowdonia was exhibited – his work in the area was not recognised and indeed it was thought practically none of these compositions were still in existence. We take a brief look at Hoppe’s work and the few remaining compositions taken on a tour of North Wales.

E. O. Hoppe self portrait circa 1919

An introduction to Hoppe’s unusual style can be made by way of the photograph shown below. This was taken in 1937 and is of a man standing in a subway at the now-closed British Museum station. He is looking at the advert for furniture, it seems quite an ordinary act. However the coup-de-grace is it’s clever use of lighting. A curved corridor provides excellent opportunities for a frame within a frame, which captures both the man and his shadow extremely well.

All Photographs by E.O. Hoppé used with permission © 2012 Curatorial Assistance, Inc. / E.O. Hoppé Estate Collection

No-one knows who he is, his face cannot be seen, but it does seem that he is someone of importance. He has a shirt as well as the usual bowler hat so he is someone of some importance in perhaps an office, or a company. Perhaps he even works for the furniture company itself and is admiring their new advert? It’s like being drawn into some sort of hypnotic stance. The eyes, the mind are mesmerised and one is clearly left in awe of this very simple, yet exquisite work.

Hoppe’s books which include Wales are Picturesque Great Britain – The Architecture and the Landscape and its equilvalent publication in German England: Baukunst un Landschaft (both 1926.)


Hoppe wasn’t impervious to just London scenes, he took scenes that spoke much social commentary all over England and Wales. They were of people, workers, landscapes and famous people and made for an amazing tapestry of images reflecting many socieites and cultures around the world. He also took pictures of the world’s largest structures of the time – these include the iconic skyscapers of New York and the Sydney Harbour bridge under construction.

David Lloyd George – Life Magazine

Iconic photographs of Albert Einstein, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and of course the Welsh statesman Lloyd George were amongst the many portraits taken by Hoppe.

E.O.Hoppe’s work in North Wales

It is little known that Hoppe visited Snowdonia during 1925 and took a large number of pictures. Sadly it seems so little of the work exists. Whilst doing research for an essay on E.O.Hoppe, a small number of the compositions taken in Snowdonia/North Wales were discovered:

Llandudno 1925

Photographs by E.O. Hoppé used with permission © 2012 Curatorial Assistance, Inc. / E.O. Hoppé Estate Collection

Hoppe’s Llandudno portrait is a composition featured on a Llandudno website that doesnt realise it is a Hoppe! It evokes scenes of a Victorian or Edwardian resort, even though this is taken in the mid 1920’s. The beach huts with their wheels are so clearly remants of an earlier age when the ‘Queen of the Welsh Resorts’ had been one of the most popular destinations for trippers from the Midlands and the north of England. Despite the sun shining and the sea seemingly very welcoming, there is not a soul to be seen. The explanation for this is that Hoppe took this picture very early one morning.

Perhaps Hoppe had seen this line of beach huts and decided that any composition would work better without people. Who knows. Actually many of his noted compositions that were taken without people were captured at times when most of the populace were at home, making breakfast – or even still in bed! There is one shot of a house seen through the castle arches at Conwy that was clearly taken in the early hours, and its very similar to another of his works showing a house at Buxton seen through railway arches at Buxton in the very early morning.

North Wales works by Hoppe featured from other websites:

Whithe Cottage, Conway, Wales, 1925 at E.O. Hoppé, ‘The Master’ of Photography (1878-1972)

In the Hills Above Ffestiniog, Wales, 1925 at E.O. Hoppe Estate Collection

The following compositions have not been featured on the internet or in any publications, except in Hoppe’s own book – Picturesque Great Britain (1926) and were probably quite unknown works until they were offered for sale on E-Bay:

1925 – Hoppe took a number of views featuring Caernarvon castle. The surviving compositions are focussed upon the castle’s iconic Eagle Tower. Again there doesnt seem to be a single soul about – save for the solitary fisherman in his boat just below the old swing bridge. These photographs were taken long before before the famous floating restaurant took up residence on the quayside. After 64 years, in May 2011 the restaurant was alas shut for good and taken for scrap.

Photographs by E.O. Hoppé used with permission © 2012 Curatorial Assistance, Inc. / E.O. Hoppé Estate Collection

Pen-y-Pass 1925

Many people dont know who took these photographs and even if they identified it as being a work by Hoppe, they placed them in the wrong locations. The above scene is one of Hoppe’s unpublished shots. Its clearly labelled by an E-Bay postcard dealer as being at Pen-y-Gwryd! Some hope! Many will instantly recognise the location as being at Gorphwysfa – or as most now know it, Pen-y-Pass. It is clear that this (and the one below) were taken on the same cloudy day. Its a nice record of the location during the 1920’s and clearly shows a quite narrow roadway that probably wasnt even fully metalled then considering the marks on its surface.

The car parks and the YHA extension now occupy the site of the buildings seen in the picture, and the road is of course considerably wider these days.

Llanberis Pass 1925

Another rare view taken by E.O.Hoppe. Its so little known that Hoppe took photographs in North Wales that the correct, relevant information just hasnt been sought on these. The above rare picture that was put up for sale by on E-Bay is said to be in North Wales but its site is not known. Perhaps this location is not obvious at all to outsiders – or E-Bay sellers – but to the locals and those with a good knowledge of Snowdonia, the location is instantly recognisable.

Its clearly obvious this composition is taken near the top of the Llanberis Pass, not far from Pen-y-Pass. The view looks north west with the Llanberis Tryfan ridge in the misty distance (the summits of Llechog, Y Bol Du, Tryfan Fawr, Tryfan Fach, and Pen Carreg y Fran are visible – that of Derlwyn is just out of sight.) The precipice known as Dinas Mot can be seen on the left. It has another name – Craig y Llywyfan. On the right are the lower slopes of Glyder Fawr.

Photographs by E.O. Hoppé used with permission © 2012 Curatorial Assistance, Inc. / E.O. Hoppé Estate Collection

Sychnant Pass 1925

The celebrated Sychnant Pass was on Hoppe’s itinerary after Llandudno and Conwy. The composition is that of the classic view towards Dwygyfylchi.

Bwlch-y-Groes 1925

At the very south eastern end of the extended Snowdonia National Park, in the hills beyond Llyn Tegid, Hoppe took this composition at Bwlch-y-Groes (its labelled as ‘Bwlch y Coerd’) on the ascent towards Lake Vyrnwy. An earlier view of the same section can be seen at Old Postcards (that shot is taken somewhat further down – the road is not yet metalled neither has the wall been built.) Is the car in the distant that used by Hoppe for his Welsh tour?

Copyright © January 2012 Gwychder y Wyddfa

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