By Sydney Hauer
“I am originally from New England,” said Philip Hopper, digital media associate professor in the Communication Studies department. “Southern New England is unique in that it has a temperate climate and a wonderful seacoast.”
Even though Hopper is a professor at UNI, he still maintains a residence in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. He returns during breaks and over summer to the apartment that he has owned for 30 years and where he lives with his wife. She teaches at Bard College.
He is currently in his fifth year of teaching at UNI. The main courses he teaches are digital media production I and II, advanced production, and advanced TV studio courses.
Hopper attended the school at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for a studio degree in film production, working in 16 and 35mm film at the time. Following his undergraduate education, Hopper moved to San Francisco to study at the Art Institute. There, he again studied film production but on a more advanced level.
“Agnes Varda, who just passed away, was tremendously influential for me in terms of my filmmaking,” Hopper said. “I was George Kuchar’s advisee when I was in grad school. He was my advisor - early pioneer of the experimental narrative form. David Lynch has stated that he was a strong influence.”
After receiving his graduate degree, Hopper moved to Los Angeles and worked in the film industry for five years. He then moved to New York and worked for his friend’s video production company.
“I worked for them for a few years until I sold my first proposal to NHK Japan, which is the public broadcasting service of Japan and that got produced,” he said. “It was a program called ‘Route 66: The Road West,’ which was an early, high-definition documentary about Route 66 and the regional music along Route 66.”
Hopper is actively involved with Fortepan Iowa, an online database of vernacular photography that is available for public use that was founded by Bettina Fabos, another professor in the Communication Studies department.
“I’ve had an interest in vernacular photography, meaning family snapshots, for many, many years now prior to coming to Iowa and working with Bettina,” Hopper said.
He is currently working on an exhibit that will be displayed in Rod Library through the month of May that will be comprised of photographs from the Library of Congress that he has printed. According to Hopper, it is an offshoot of what he does with Fortepan. He is also involved in an archive project that will take place in Spring of 2020 in Israel.
Hopper’s background in digital media is more than just film. He is a photojournalist that captures images in areas of conflict, such as Northern Ireland and the West Bank. He is most interested in graffiti murals on official walls, such as the barrier between Israel and Palestine. He also makes high-resolution scans of items such as seed pods and shells, what he calls “the Specimen Project,” in addition to other experimental photography.
A photographer that Hopper admires greatly is Robert Capa.
“I just got back from Hungary, and we went to the Robert Capa museum and I was able to see prints of his that I never knew exists. You’ll hear a lot of people from photojournalism talk about that, but he’s a real thing.”
When he’s not creating images or making films, Hopper enjoys riding his bike.
“But you’re never gonna catch me in spandex shorts and an aerodynamic helmet. It’s not that kind of bike riding.”