Biography of Thomas Hoepker
German born photographer, Thomas Hoepker, made some of the most iconic images of the 20th Century. He never studied photography, he “just did it” and was highly influenced by the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Elliott Erwitt.
His first photography job was with the Münchner Illustrierte before he landed a prestigious job with Stern magazine as a photo-reporter in 1964. That same year the world famous Magnum cooperative began distributing artwork from the Thomas Hoepker archive. Soon after he landed his most celebrated assignment, when he was asked to photograph a boxer—then little known in Europe—called Muhammad Ali. The iconic Muhammad Ali took a liking to Hoepker and the photographer would shadow him for years, even visiting him in America.
In the 1970s Thomas Hoepker began working as a cameraman and producer of documentary films for German television, and collaborating with his then wife, Eva Windmoeller. In 1976 he moved to America and became the director of photography at the American edition of Geo. In 1987 he returned to Hamburg to become director of photography at Stern magazine until 1989 when he became a full Magnum member.
For most of his career Thomas Hoepker famously used a Leica camera. Hugely celebrated in his native country of Germany he has had retrospectives at the Kunsthalle Hamburg and C/O Gallery Berlin, both in 2007, as well as at the Fotomuseum in Munich, Germany in 2006. In 1968 he won the Kulturpreis, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie, and he won first prize for Death in a Cornfield, a TV film on Guatemala, from the German Ministry of Foreign Aid in 1999. He now mainly lives and works in New York where he shoots and directs TV documentaries. Between 2003 and 2006 he was president of Magnum Photos.