C. J. Hockett: Natural Phenomena

C. J. Hockett: Natural Phenomena

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C. J. Hockett bought his very first camera at Times Square in New York City when he was fourteen years old, but it took quite some time for this early talent to reach fruition. We were fascinated by the trajectory of his career, from Navy officer and physician to a specialization in spectacular wild bird and animal photography.

GreatGray2 13x19You came to photography through a more circuitous route than most Paradise City artists. What is your background?
I grew up spending most of my time outdoors on my father’s ranch in the high mountain Wallowa Valley of Northeast Oregon. I graduated from the University of Oregon in1965 with a BA in Political Science. While in college, I also took elective classes in visual art: oil painting and drawing.

After graduation, I entered the Navy as commissioned officer, and served six years as a Naval Aviator flying carrier based fighter-bomber high performance jet aircraft. In 1971, I left the Navy to attend Medical School at Oregon Health Science University. I received my Doctor of Medicine degree in 1977, and after completing a Family Medicine residency I settled in central Washington State with my family.

hockett_cranes-frontThirteen years later, I reentered the Navy on active duty during Desert Storm as a Flight Surgeon. While serving, I completed a second residency in Psychiatry. I retired from the Navy in 2005. My last tour of duty was as Chief of Psychiatry at the US Military Hospital in Kuwait.

Did you first take up photography when you retired from active service in the Navy?
Actually, my serious study of photography began earlier, in 1998 at the Tidewater Visual Art Center in Portsmouth, Virginia. I took classes in film, then digital photography – plus computer graphics classes. After retirement in 2005, I became fully immersed in wlldlife photography. I continued my own education and attended several field study sessions under the tutelage of professional wildlife photographers. I traveled throughout the United States, Canada, Japan and the Falkland Islands during these field instructional sessions.

BlkBrAdultAre there other artists or schools of art with which you identify?
Although my field is photography, I am most influenced by the Impressionist painters. Other artists who inspire and influence me are Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Art Wolfe, Richard Diebenkorn, John Singer Sargent, Edward Hopper, Jackson Pollock, Andrew Wyeth, Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt and James Whistler.

cj and jackrabbitWhat are your goals? Can you describe your artistic approach to wildlife photography?
My hope is that my photography will increase your sense of respect and responsibility for all wildlife and their habitat.
My style of photography is guided by my affection for “visual art” rather than “natural history”. In other words, I am always looking for abstract realism as I reduce nature to its most basic elements. I emphasize the subject so that you, the viewer, are drawn into the mystery of these wild creatures.

The practice of fine art photography has changed in many ways over time. What are your working methods?
I work by myself most of the time. I use a professional digital camera and long telephoto lenses, which allow me to observe and photograph wild creatures but not influence or disturb their behavior. I craft my photographs to emphasize and maximize their iconic appeal, clarity and luminosity. The photographs are printed on metal sheets via dye-sublimation transfer. The surface of the print has a microscopic depth that captures more light and gives the image a sense of increased depth, much like an Old Masters painting done in layers.

5 Barn OwlsYour photographs speak volumes about animal life in the wild. Do you have a favorite story?
The three-Owl and five-Owl prints of the fledged Barn Owls are the result of one of my most cherished photo shoots. The Owls have just flown from their nest box and roost in the top of the barn until total darkness occurs. They then fly down to perch on the haymow window and wait to be fed mice by their parents. This feeding dependency continues for seven to ten days, after which the young owls learn some hunting skills. They then disperse, never to return to this nest site! The five fledglings are the second clutch of owlets raised in a single season due to the abundant food supply.

C.J. Hockett has exhibited his dramatic wildlife photography at Paradise City Arts Festivals since 2013. You can see his work this October 8-10 at the Northampton show. CJ and his wife Renee reside with their children and grandchildren in Burlington, VT.