Photographer Ryan Hopkinson uses in-camera tricks to create surreal imagery

The results are often deceptively simple, leaving the audience wondering about the secret techniques at play.

Date
7 October 2021
Reading Time
3 minute read

From a young age, Ryan Hopkinson was fascinated by documentary and war photography, but he knew very quickly that he could never do it himself. Following various jobs assisting other photographers in London, and after receiving guidance from several mentors, he realised that his “mind and approach was more focused on constructing imagery.” He would be a “terrible documentary photographer” he concedes, though this is no longer a concern for Ryan, who has found his own niche between arts and commerce. Having gone from strength to strength since first studying photography, he has worked for and collaborated with a host of high-profile brands including Rimowa, Rolex, Issey Miyake, Louis Vuitton and Craig Green, among others.

The latter two, both recent projects from this year, gave Ryan a chance to truly express his creative approach to photography and moving image. His work for Louis Vuitton allowed him to adopt a series of experimental techniques to showcase the brand’s new products. In one campaign, inspired by the idea of “reaching a higher plain, both conceptually and physically”, Ryan utilised a large drone to carry iconic Louis Vuitton luggage high into the air, providing motion in a shoot that would typically be static. “We really wanted to create something that was surprising and hopefully unexpected for the audience,” he explains. “I’ve been wanting to use a drone like this for a long time. I’ve used them on commercial shoots and they are such a great tool.”

Experimenting with the drone in this way came with its own challenges, however. Finding a model that was capable of carrying up to 15 kg proved to be problematic and this was made no easier by the weather the team experienced during the shoot. “There were regular strong gusts of wind and it was blowing consistently around 85km/h,” recalls Ryan. “Which is great for kitesurfing, but not for hanging very expensive objects off of equally expensive drones.” The rough breeze also whipped at the nearby dunes, kicking up sand and threatening to ruin the drones' sensitive components. “As always, working with an absolutely amazing local team and experienced drone pilots made everything much easier,” he says.

Ryan Hopkinson: Louis Vuitton (Copyright © Ryan Hopkinson, 2021)

Ryan’s innovative style is also evident in his work for men’s clothing brand Craig Green. In the short videos he produced for one of its campaigns, we watch as various items of clothing, including shirts, shorts, and jackets, disappear through holes in the middle of the frame. At first, the motion is bewildering, but after repeat viewings we begin to admire the beautiful patterns made by the twisting and turning of the clothing as it slips through the hole, creating a hypnotic effect that makes it hard to stop watching. Brilliant moments of symmetry are achieved through this surprising choreography and at points it feels like the product of CGI.

But according to Ryan, this is not the case. He explains that the majority of the tricks were created in-camera with the help of Isabel + Helen, a London-based creative studio that specialises in set design and interactive installations. “I had been collaborating with this incredible duo on a few self-initiated ideas and they asked me to get involved with them in creating films for Craig and his team, with whom they regularly work.” Together, they were able to combine Ryan’s knack for surreal imagery with Isabel and Helen’s capacity for understated kinetics. Much like the duo’s love for creating work that is “misleading in its apparent simplicity”, Ryan also seeks to make the audience question the methods by which everything is achieved. “I'm always seeking out and experimenting with new ways to create,” he says. “I do love CGI when it’s used in combination with multiple other techniques, but for now everything has to be in-camera. This presents many challenges, but it’s a fundamental pillar of my work.

Ryan Hopkinson/Isabel + Helen: Craig Green (Copyright © RH/I+S, 2021)

Ryan Hopkinson/Isabel + Helen: Craig Green (Copyright © RH/I+S, 2021)

Ryan Hopkinson/Isabel + Helen: Craig Green (Copyright © RH/I+S, 2021)

Ryan Hopkinson/Isabel + Helen: Craig Green (Copyright © RH/I+S, 2021)

Ryan Hopkinson: Louis Vuitton (Copyright © Ryan Hopkinson, 2021)

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Ryan Hopkinson: Louis Vuitton (Copyright © Ryan Hopkinson, 2021)

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Ryan Hopkinson: Louis Vuitton (Copyright © Ryan Hopkinson, 2021)

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Ryan Hopkinson: Louis Vuitton (Copyright © Ryan Hopkinson, 2021)

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Ryan Hopkinson: Louis Vuitton (Copyright © Ryan Hopkinson, 2021)

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About the Author

Daniel Milroy Maher

Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.

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