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Evelyn Hofer is America’s most famous unknown photographer no more

2 min read  · 12 May 2023

Four Young Men, Washington, DC, (1968). Copyright the artist’s estate, courtesy of the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchased with funds from Joe Williams and Tede Fleming

The German-American documentary photographer Evelyn Hofer is on the HENI News radar as the late artist's first US museum show in 50 years opens at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art.

Evelyn Hofer's HENI Score—a unique artist’s sentiment index—has increased an impressive 166% as appreciation of the overlooked photographer’s portraits and citiscapes grows.

Hofer's auction market sales have totaled $10,000 over the past two years but in 2016 a print of her classic color portrait of four Irish soccer players, Phoenix Park on a Sunday, Dublin (1966) sold at Phillips for $20,157, more than double its upper estimate. Her prints are typically priced between $8,000 to $20,000 by dealers. New York’s Danziger Gallery represents the artist's estate.

In the 1970s, Hofer was described by New York Times critic Hilton Kramer as: “The most famous unknown photographer in the United States," a description the self-effacing artist quite liked.

The photographer, who was born in 1922 and whose family fled Nazi Germany for Switzerland, is best known for her sensitive portraits, typically taken in urban settings where she found her subjects, created with a cumbersome 4-by-5-inch viewfinder camera mounted on a tripod. It was a deliberate choice. “One reason I like to work with a big camera is I don’t like to spy on people,” Hofer said.

“Evelyn Hofer: Eyes on the City,” the artist’s first major museum exhibition in the US in more than 50 years, is now on show at the High Museum of Art, which has acquired several of her works recently. The show is due to travel to the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri.

Evelyn Hofer. Phoenix Park on a Sunday, Dublin (1966). Copyright estate of Evelyn Hofer, courtesy of Danziger Gallery

In France, an exhibition of her photographs of New Yorkers was organised by the GwinZegal Art Center in Guingamp in 2022, underscoring the growing interest in overlooked female photographers. A room of Hofer's photographs were included in the exhibition "America 1970s/80s" at Berlin’s Museum fur Fotografie in 2020, a group show organised by the Helmut Newton Foundation.

The Photographers' Gallery, London, opens a show of Hofer's photographs of 1960s London in June 2023.

Elisabeth Biondi, the former visuals editor of The New Yorker, knew ‘Miss Hofer”, who died in 2009, aged 87. The photographer once told the journalist about a tricky commission for Vogue. Hofer’s sitter was the young and unpunctual artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. “She waited for hours—much longer then she thought tolerable. Eventually she heard rumblings upstairs. Basquiat descended the staircase. She looked at him, he looked at her, and then she simply stared him down. For the rest of the shoot he treated her with great respect.”

To find out more about Evelyn Hofer, see her HENI Dashboard. A unique feature of HENI News, HENI Dashboards allows you to discover thousands of artists who you may not be familiar with along with well-known names.


Evelyn Hofer