New York Times art critic Hilton Kramer described Evelyn Hofer as ‘the most famous unknown photographer in America’. To artists, she is what is known as an ‘artist’s artist.’
Evelyn Hofer (January 21, 1922 – November 2, 2009) was a German-American portrait and documentary photographer born in Marburg, Germany. In 1933, her family moved to Geneva, and then later Madrid, to escape Nazism. In the early 1940’s, after Franco came to power, she moved again to Mexico, where she had her first work as a professional photographer. In 1946, she moved to New York where she worked for Harper's Bazaar while simultaneously befriending many of the artists of the day who lived in New York and provided a foundation for inspiration.
Hofer’s contemplated, large-format portraits, landscapes, cityscapes, still lives, and household interiors created in Silver Gelatin process or using the complex color, painstakingly created dye transfer process that she preferred, were instilled with a sense of timelessness and reflection that was contrary to the ‘shoot-from-the-hip’ style of her contemporaneous photographers.
Hofer used a four-by-five-inch view camera to make disciplined, meticulous photographs. Her style involved honest compositions that were well-defined, but simultaneously complex. Her portraits show the emotional connection she developed with her subjects as she sat long times with them to capture their true selves. She once said: ‘I don’t like to spy on people…I respect them and I want them to respect what we are doing, together.’
Her artist portraits and studio still-lives feature, amongst others, Andy Warhol, Diego Rivera, Yayoi Kusama, Lee Krasner, and Jackson Pollock. She traveled the world collaborating on travel books, which afforded her the opportunity to continue to meet and photograph icons of culture, as well as icons of architecture, cityscapes, political figures, and importantly, the everyday people who occupied daily life in these places.
Evelyn Hofer died in Mexico City, Mexico, at the age of 87.