Chip Hooper

by Ian on August 28, 2010

Chip Hooper

Chip Hooper: Northern California Coast, Pacific Ocean

So, I have been back from NYC for a while now. I was only away for four nights as I had to be back for work. Since returning I have been unable to get back to this blog as I would have liked. Just as I finally got some time away from work and other chores, I got laid low by a cold for most of this last week. I have also been busy participating in an interview about my work and process (more on that soon).

My trip itself was full of many highs and lows. Among the lows, the heat and humidity in NY were intense and caused haze and smog that obscured any attempt at images of the skyline and sapped my energies for much else regardless. I had planned on a day in the country on my way home, maybe even a chance to see the Perseids from somewhere in the Adirondacks, but then my car lost all electrical power while on the I-87 north of Albany and I had to spend a night and a day in the tiny town of Pottersville, NY waiting for a new alternator and its installation. Then I spent just shy of three hours at the border. Oh well, c’est la vie.

Among the highs, were lovely dinners at Mary’s Fish Camp, and at Eleven Madison Park as well as engaging exhibits at both the Guggenheim at a private gallery in Chelsea, the Robert Mann Gallery. I had gone to Robert Mann Gallery largely in order to see Michael Kenna’s images that were part of a group show. I have long been a fan of Kenna’s work and seeing it in print was truly a delight. In fact, it was everything I could do not to spend $5000 and buy one of the prints on display.

The most pleasant surprise of the exhibit, though, was discovering Chip Hooper’s work. The image above was on display and grabbed my attention immediately. His choice to allow the power of the clouds and the waves to recede slightly through a somewhat longer exposure, and, therefore, to have the sun and the shadow dominate the scene, makes for an engaging and interesting image. The backlit seastack and its black shadow anchor the composition and grab the viewers attention, yet the texture and lightness of the sunlight reflecting from the surface of the ocean transport the viewer up and into the photograph. The work is at once both enticing, beautiful, and a touch foreboding. After looking at the two prints on display, I quickly asked to see the books of his work behind the desk at the gallery. I bought both and I have really enjoyed spending quite some time with Chip Hooper’s images.

On first impression, Hooper’s work might seem to share a certain aesthetic with the coastal images of Hoflehner, Kenna, or even Burdeny’s earlier Shorelines images. However, his photographs have a style all their own. Much more emphasis is placed on the natural elements in Hooper’s work: man-made structures are entirely absent from the images and, in many instances, exposures are kept short so as not to obscure the dynamic forces of the ocean and its waves. There is also a wider variety of weather conditions represented in the photographs, with some truly compelling images created in the fog. The resulting images have a delicacy to their presentation with lower contrast and more gently structured compositions. This may make Hooper’s work less immediately engaging and certainly less dramatic than other photographer’s approaches; however, I feel it allows the viewers to bring more of themselves in response to work. As a result, I find that I can spend a great deal of time with these photographs without exhausting the open possibilities within them. In the end, Hooper’s work reminds me, in a way, more of John Sexton’s approach with trees and forests than of the coastal images of the photographers I mentioned above.

Links and a couple of images after the break:


Chip Hooper: Moonlight, Garrapata Beach, 1999

Chip Hooper: Summer, Tasman Sea, New Zealand, 2004

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