Hockensmith is one of the premier equine photographers in the United States. Born in 1954 in Cynthiana, Kentucky, Hockensmith took up photography at an early age and later studied art and photography at nearby Georgetown College. He began his professional career in 1975, working for the Commonwealth of Kentucky as a photographer and four years later, started the independent photography business in Georgetown known today as Fine Art Editions Gallery & Press.
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John Stephen Hockensmith was born in Cynthiana, Kentucky in 1954. His father was a county extension agent and the family moved to Shepherdsville, Kentucky before settling in Georgetown, Kentucky. Hockensmith attended Georgetown College and lived in several Kentucky towns before returning to Georgetown, his home.
A photographer for over 40 years, Hockensmith elaborates, I’ve always thought of myself as a photographer, sometimes a journalist, sometimes an illustrator, but first and foremost, an artist.
Hockensmith made his first photograph of a foal and farm dog at age thirteen. In college, he was directed toward abstract expression and worked in several media. His early work was eclectically influenced and soon drew notice. In 1978 he was invited by famed Kentucky artist Henry Faulkner for a two-man show at the Hyatt Regency in Lexington, Kentucky. In 1984 he made his solo debut at Madison Square Garden at an ‘Emerging Artist’ exposition. His first major exhibition was in 1986 at the Headley-Whitney Museum, Lexington.
By the 1990s, Hockensmith had settled into family life and opened a commercial studio in Georgetown focusing on portrait photography. In 1994 he was commissioned by Midway College to produce a print series for their equine program. Working with horses, Hockensmith was drawn to new inspiration. Equines were living, breathing embodiments of beauty and expressions of the spirit of freedom. The horse has been a guiding inspiration ever since.
During the last decade, Hockensmith authored and published two art books, Gypsy Horses and the Travelers’ Way (2006) and Spanish Mustangs in the Great American West (2009). Both received several accolades, including the Benjamin Franklin award, and were commended for their artistic presentation and unique integration of photography, history, prose, and poetry.
In 2011, while photographing an equestrian performance at Circus Flora in St. Louis, Hockensmith’s creative attention was drawn to the shadows created by the theater of the circus. In his current work, Hockensmith explores how shadows and silhouetted action play in a peripheral view.
In 2013, Hockensmith expanded his Fine Art Editions studio to include gallery space to show other artists, including Helene Steene, Edgar Tolson, John Tuska, and Henry Faulkner. Active in sales and brokerage, Fine Art Editions secured the sale of a famous private collection of 236 Faulkner originals to a major national bank.
Hockensmith has worked as a photographer for the Kentucky State Government, Georgetown College, Churchill Downs, Keeneland, and Al Khayal Magazine. Corporate clients include Toyota, Lexmark, The Kentucky Horse Park, and Universal Studios.
Hockensmith’s principal exhibitions include: ‘Put this Moment Here’ (1986) at the Headley-Whitney Museum, ‘Rare Breeds: From Figurative to Abstract’ (2004) and ‘Gypsy Horses and the Travelers’ Way’ (2006) at The Kentucky Horse Park International Museum of the Horse, Lexington, and ‘Spanish Mustangs in the Great American West’ (2009), a large format exhibition accompanying his book release filling all three galleries of the Headley-Whitney Museum.
Hockensmith is recognized locally, nationally, and internationally as an artist, author, and photographer. He is also known as an expert innovative printmaker, specializing in high fidelity ultra-wide giclée prints. Currently he is experimenting with retrofitted printers and advanced digital technology to produce superior dynamic color palettes.