La Dolce Vita, Brixton


Inspired by Thurston Hopkins, I took this photo of Rosa early one Saturday morning. I’d met Rosa as she greeted customers at Bookmongers, the secondhand bookshop in Brixton, south London. And when I heard that she was going to Nova Scotia for a year, I arranged to take her portrait in the Bookmongers van.

Thurston Hopkins’ more famous picture – La Dolce Vita, Knightsbridge – was taken in 1953. Featuring a majestic poodle and its owner (a chauffeur) in a limousine, the image has been widely published. Hopkins freely admitted that the picture had been set up. Having stumbled on the poodle and chauffeur when he had no camera with him, he arranged to meet and photograph them the next day. The deadpan expression on both their faces always makes me smile.

An online search will quickly bring up La Dolce Vita, Knightsbridge and other pictures by Hopkins – most of them taken in the 1950s, when he worked for Picture Post. Although in later life he abandoned his camera and took up painting, he remains best known for his wonderfully observed black and white photos. He died in 2014, aged 101.

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