Photographs by Magnum photographer Thomas Hoebaker became iconic – including the black and white photo of boxer Muhammad Ali. When he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease five years ago, he decided to cross the United States again with his wife and documentary filmmaker Nahuel Lopez.
In 1963, the editor-in-chief of the Hamburg magazine “Kristall” approached Thomas Hoebaker: “Would you like to discover America?” Hoepker was 27 years old at the time. The three months in the United States proved to be style-defining: the photographs shaped the image of the American province away from Germany. Hoepker took photographs far from his impressive “American way of life,” but it showed a land of contrasts.
Nearly 60 years later, documentary filmmaker Nahuel Lopez accompanied Thomas Hoebaker on another journey across the USA. The result is a film that combines the past and the present.
Dream of a career photographer?
After his trip to the United States, Hoepker worked as a photo reporter for “Stern” since 1964. He remained loyal to the magazine and declined the first invitation to join Magnum’s circle of illustrious photographers. His famous portraits of boxing legend Muhammad Ali were also created in “Stern”.
Thomas Hoebaker preferred to define himself as a craftsman rather than an artist. He also had the requisite stamina, as he later recalled: “Photojournalism: This dream job can also become a nightmare for some due to excessive stress. You live exclusively in hotels and planes.”
Journey Against Oblivion
In this documentary, you learn a lot about Thomas Hoebaker’s life almost casually: from old interviews, about old photos and about the conversation between the 85-year-old and his wife Kristen Kruschen.
He was driving her motorhome from Southampton in New York across the US to the Pacific Ocean – in the year of the pandemic 2020. The two set off on the day after Joe Biden’s election victory. The first stops will take you deep into Trump country. Stunningly contemporary movie.
The journey is a final rebellion against oblivion. Alzheimer’s disease has already affected Hoepker so much that he can no longer determine what year he lives in during clinical testing.
Pictures last longer than memories
But thanks to Kristen Kruschen’s loving care, Hoepker remains cheerful and in a good mood. He also doesn’t lose his cool when you have to remind him of his old friends or even his kids. He sticks to his picture. These also hold his memory, and as he mischievously notes, they last longer than the memory of what he just ate. “That’s the beauty of photography. That’s what’s out there. That stays.”
This trip in a motorhome isn’t just a nostalgia trip. Hoepker is constantly shooting. Kristen Kruschen draws his attention to trappings and parallels on his first such voyage in the early 1960s.
In between, documentary filmmaker Nahuel Lopez continues to remember Hoepker: images that became iconic, like those of Muhammad Ali, who predicted Hoepker’s life with Parkinson’s disease.
The film is titled “Dear Memories” and is subtitled “A Journey with Magnum Photographer Thomas Hoebaker”. That sounds sober. In doing so, Nahuel Lopez, in collaboration with the photographer and his wife, succeeded in creating a very unusual document of art, life and era. This latest trip by Hoepker also connects history with the present.
Theatrical Release: 06/30/2022