Monterey County Herald

Chip Hooper, Capturing Moments in Pictures
Monterey County Herald, Monterey, California

November 12, 1998

A long time ago I read a book titled ” A Man of Steel and Velvet.” Unfortunately the name of the author has escaped my memory, but I remember it was about how men might develop their dual natures.

It was about how a man can move around in this world, be shrewd and successful and strong without hurting himself or his family. That velvet was allowing his sensitivity to beauty and feelings to enhance, not detract, from his manhood. I think Chip Hooper is such a man.

Hooper wears many hats. For the past 18 years he has worked in the music industry. He’s currently a talent agent with Monterey Peninsula Artists, which is in the business of booking tours for music groups. Understandably this part of his professional life is private. He is also fairly protective of his family: wife Laura, and two children who by design, live in the serene environment of Carmel Valley.

A couple of times a year, Hooper makes planned photographic expeditions, complete with llamas as pack animals, to out-of-the-way places in the Southwest, which turns down the hectic pace of his business life. When he returns home, he prints up his own work, just like he’s done since he was 13, when he was photographing his favorite groups at rock concerts.

During a recent interview, it became apparent that this man is successfully living a creative, well-balanced and fulfilled lifestyle that positively enhances many lives.

I saw his photographic work in Pebble Beach at The Inn at Spanish Bay last week, a couple of days before the Ansel Adams Gallery opened an exhibit of about 20 of his black and white images.

Hooper’s work definitely drew me in and did that magic thing of simultaneously pleasing with pristine technique, unselfconscious composition and sensitive subject choices, often with a bonus – the element of mystery.

One example is “Colorado Plateau No. 7.” Striated lines converge from the outer edges of a horizontal format into a swirling, glowing-white, circular center, catapulting, the viewer into the cosmos.

Wow, where are we, what am I seeing? The place where this picture was taken is one of “Chip’s spots.”

He said the image presented itself as he was walking away and glanced back over his shoulder at the petrified sand dunes of Colorado. What he saw was the wind disturbing a puddle of water in a hollow of the dune. He quickly set up his 8-by-10-inch wooden box camera and made his exposure.

Every photographer on the hunt can relate to this kind of “moment.” Hooper calls it a “gift,” kind of like God’s reward for showing up.

He hopes his views of our coastal area, whether in repose, as in his “Pfeiffer Beach” and “Garrapata Beach” or waves crashing against craggy rocks as depicted in “Crashing Waves and Splash,” expresses his concern that “we humans need to do a better job of taking care of the earth.”

Hooper is very selective about what he shoots and prints. Jeff Conley, manager at Ansel Adams Gallery, calls him “a rising star in the world of fine art photography.” Hooper’s work is in that very special place where forward-looking art collectors are recognizing his emerging solidity as a world class fine-art photographer.

The Pebble Beach show includes some images of Anasazi ruins, which is promising to become a project of its own. A few of Hooper’s editions are nearly sold out.

In addition to the Ansel Adams Gallery, Hooper is also represented by the Robert Klein Gallery in Boston, the Photographic Image Gallery in Portland, and the Alinder Gallery in Gualala at Sea Ranch.

A small museum-quality brochure in which 14 of his images are reproduced is available at the gallery, where his exhibits will continue through Dec. 15.