Chip Hooper, “New Zealand’s South Pacific and Tasman Sea”
Joseph Bellows Gallery, La Jolla, CA

December 2007

Beginning in 2003, Chip Hooper spent three years in and near New Zealand, making pristine black-and-white seascapes with a large-format camera.  The photographs shown here were transporting;  the viewer could almost hear the distant sound of the Tasman Sea and sense how the water at certain spots wavers like a shifting mirror.
Though they are related to Hooper’s earlier “California’s Pacific” series, the New Zealand pictures are more exotic.  Some of these images show only sky and sea;  others include flat beach or rocky cliffs, but all are devoid of human presence.  Palely beautiful, Surf, Tasman Sea (2005) verges on feathery abstraction.  The foreground consists of a thin stretch of water along the shoreline, while a little farther out the sea is white with foam.  In Cape Foulwind Beach, Tasman Sea (2003), the water is akin to a sheet of glass, and dark bluffs plunge sharply.  The seductive silence of the place is palpable.  Okarito Beach, Tasman Sea (2003) captures cracks and shadows spreading across rocks in exquisite detail.

Hooper lives in the Carmel area, which is strongly associated with Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.  Hooper’s landscapes follow in the Adams-Weston tradition but have their own strain of grandeur.  One memorable example, Giant’s Tooth, Tasman Sea (2003), veers toward the surreal in its depiction of a strange rock pillar shooting out of a sandy beach.  — Robert L. Pincus