William Ropp, often known as “the shadow sculptor,” has a unique style of portraiture. Ropp often places his subjects in complete darkness taking photographs by using long exposures for up to ten minutes. He uses a 50-year-old Czech flashlight for dramatic illumination effects. Ropp will start “painting” using “the dance of light” in his photos working either in a studio or on site in locations like Mali or Mexico. He uses simple equipment and elicits the “soul” of his sitters while making his psychological portraits. Two of the photographer’s outstanding series entitled, Children and Dreamt Memories from Africa are haunting, emotional, and humanistic portraits. They depict children gazing directly at the viewer appearing thoughtful and fully aware of the world. Ropp shows children as the true subjects of the photographs and avoids the hackneyed and obvious. They are beginning their journey of life with all of its imperfections and difficulties becoming potentialities as they navigate life’s horizons.
William Ropp never directs his subjects. What ultimately emerges is an enigmatic vulnerability that expresses hopes and doubts rarely captured in people, yet alone images of children. As the photographer himself says, “Clearly a portrait isn’t just the picture of the face; it must also be a picture of the mind and heart.” Ropp is sensitive to these moments exposing his subjects’ innermost feelings capturing the essence of their existence. Recently, in 2012, the Musée de la Photographie Charleroi, Belgium and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris jointly organized two successful exhibitions. His work is included in public collections such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museet for Fotokunst Odense, Denmark, and The New York Public Library (The Spencer Collection). Today, Ropp lives and works in Nancy, France where he continues to produce and develop his own richly toned, black and white and colored portraitures.