Emil Hoppe moved to London in 1900 to train as a financier, but took up photography and rapidly achieved great success. He was the only son of a prominent banker, and was educated in the finest schools of Munich, Paris and Vienna.
Upon leaving school Emil Hoppe served apprenticeships in German banks for ten years, before accepting a position with the Shanghai Banking Corporation. He never arrived in China. While working for the Deutsche Bank, he became increasingly enamored with photography, and, in 1907, jettisoned his commercial career and opened a portrait studio. Within a few years, Emil Hoppe was the undisputed leader of pictorial portraiture in Europe.
Although Emil Hoppe was one of the most important photographic artists of his era and highly celebrated in his time, in 1954, at the age of 76, he sold his body of photographic work to a commercial London picture archive, the Mansell Collection.
Almost all of Hoppé's photographic work - that which gained him the reputation as Britain's most influential international photographer between 1907 and 1939 - was accidentally obscured from photo-historians and from photo-history itself. It remained in the collection for over thirty years after Hoppé's death, and was not fully accessible to the public until the collection closed down and was acquired by new owners in the United States. In 1994 photographic art curator Graham Howe retrieved Hoppé's photographic work from the picture library and rejoined it with the Hoppé family archive of photographs and biographical documents. This was the first time since 1954 that the complete Emil Hoppe Collection was gathered together. Many years were spent in cataloguing, conservation, and research of the recovered work.
Emil Hoppe married his old school friend's sister, Marion Bliersbach.