July 13, 2017 / Luxury Lifestyle

Photographer Drew Hopper Takes the Road Less Traveled

Compelling, atmospheric images of people and places offer insight into hidden truths and provoke an emotional response


When he’s traveling, Drew Hopper seeks to tap into the knowledge of locals. “Often, like everything, it’s not what you know, but who you know,” he muses, pointing out that connecting with like-minded people on the road can prove more valuable than having expensive new equipment or the most up-to-date guide book.

Drew Hopper seeks to create images that encapsulate the diversity of cultures, people, and environments he encounters in his travels. Banner image: Carrying a heavy load of fruit and vegetables, a woman crosses the street in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photograph: ©Drew Hopper Photography With this approach, the Australian travel, documentary, and landscape photographer has been able to get access to sites he might never have heard or read about, and to learn the best locations and times to capture the beautiful atmospheric scenes that have become his trademark. 

A man takes his daily dip in the River Ganges at dawn in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. Drew Hopper spent a week in Varanasi exploring the banks of the holy river, documenting the daily life of the people who worship the Ganges. Photograph: ©Drew Hopper PhotographyAll pieces of the puzzle
Hopper captures haunting visions, such as a solitary man by Pushkar Lake, India, in the middle of the Maha Aarti (a prayer for peace and prosperity only performed on the night of the full moon), or young monks, clad in vibrant robes, in Mingun, Myanmar.

Novice monks look over the Irrawaddy River in Mingun, Myanmar. Photograph: ©Drew Hopper Photography“To me, photography is all about the emotional connection that an image can convey,” he says, pointing out that his work can sometimes be quite distressing, as when, for example, he came across an Indian woman standing on the steps by the River Ganges overlooking the body of a dead child floating on the water. “It didn’t feel appropriate taking a picture, but I knew I would have regretted not documenting the sight.”

Drew Hopper’s thoughtfully constructed compositions help to reflect his vision and draw the viewer’s eye. ©Drew Hopper PhotographyHopper admits to being more interested in documenting what he sees than creating pieces of art. “Even if my imagery does appear to be more ‘fine art,’ I feel it goes beyond just a pretty image,” he says. He adds that capturing compelling images provides “a piece to a bigger and more in-depth truth.”

A street vendor sells fresh fruit and vegetables in Hội An, Vietnam. Photograph: ©Drew Hopper PhotographyOpportunities are everywhere
While a great deal of preparation goes into getting ready for his backpacking journeys, he believes that once on the ground he’s best “just going with the flow and letting it unfold.”

With a particular focus on Asian countries, Drew Hopper’s images—including this photograph of the Hindu spring festival of Holi in Uttar Pradesh, India—resonate with cultural significance. Photograph: ©Drew Hopper PhotographyOne time in Hanoi, Vietnam, after he opened the balcony door of the hotel room he’d just checked into, he spotted a Vietnamese woman walking down the street, balancing a yoke on her shoulder. He grabbed his camera and took a beautiful overhead shot of the products she was carrying, as they were perfectly balanced, color-wise.

A unique perspective, looking through the basket net of a fisherman on Inle Lake in Shan State, Myanmar. Photograph: ©Drew Hopper Photography“I just love how spontaneous travel can be, especially traveling as a photographer. Photo opportunities are everywhere, and sometimes the best photos are those images you least expect.”

Geometric shapes, shadows, and lines combine in this image of Hội An’s Old Town in Central Vietnam. Photograph: ©Drew Hopper PhotographyAs a travel photographer, Hopper feels it’s important to capture images that define his experiences: “So if I’m feeling a sense of mystery when visiting a majestic location, then this is how I’ll represent the place…” 

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Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop
is a Singapore-based journalist who has written for The New York Times, South China Morning Post, and CNN Style