‘Every time I step out of my house I see images just waiting to be captured. Whether it’s on the way to work, a vacation spot, the park or just traveling down the highway; it is on these often-ordinary adventures that I have found the faces and places that make up this exhibit,” says Arthur Hochman in an artist’s statement for his new show, “Faces and Places,” which opens Saturday, July 1, at Orpha’s Coffee Shop in Skillman.
“Faces and Places,” says Hochman, “is an eclectic mix of landscapes and character studies.” For example, on his way home from a family trip, Hochman was struck by an image of beauty outside of his car window, and pulled over to photograph it. The aptly titled “78 East” captures the horizon, which divides the image in half; the landscape is a grassy field with a wire fence and flowers in the foreground. From the right edge of the image a Y-shaped, bare dead branch leans in and hangs on anonymous wires traveling lazily above the fence.
“I’m a big sky person. I love the sky,” says Hochman. The sky in “78 East” (opposite page) is divided in two by ominous grey clouds directly above the viewer, contrasted with a shallow band of bright blue sky and puffy white clouds in the distance just above the horizon. Aesthetically the photograph is rich with dense color and the repeated horizontals give an overall calm and cool effect. But the dead branch reads almost as a black and white western subject, a taste of the past set against the background of a green and flowering present, inviting the viewer to ponder elements of time beyond the here and now. This is also exemplified by the contrasting skies, leaving the viewer to decide whether the storm is coming or going. Hochman has framed what might otherwise be a simple snapshot into an image with a deeper narrative to explore.
Surprisingly, Hochman has not been a photographer for long. In fact he has only been taking photographs seriously for a little over a year now. But as an actor, he is no stranger to narrative. He was born in Levittown, Pennsylvania, in 1960 to Stanley and Selma Hochman. Stanley was an engineer, one of the technicians to work on the first CAT scan machine, and Selma worked as an administrative assistant. Hochman graduated from Neshaminy Maple Point High School in 1978, studied acting at SUNY Purchase for one year, and then transferred to Temple University, where he continued to study acting in a liberal arts-based program.
Admittedly not the best student, Hochman left school without a degree to pursue acting on his own, appearing over the past 25 years in productions at the Bucks County Playhouse, and at the Open Air, Off Broadstreet, and Kelsey theaters. Though he keeps the acting flame burning, he decided it was not conducive to family life, and for the past seven years has been working for Caliper Management in the Carnegie Center, a personality testing and consulting firm, where he is assistant vice president of operations. His daughter, Tappany, is a rising junior at Temple University and seems to be afflicted with the acting bug as well, says her father.
It was during a discussion with his wife, Robin, about a possible cross-country road-trip for their 25th wedding anniversary arriving in 2008, that Hochman began to consider photography. A self-professed gadget fanatic, Hochman went out and purchased a high quality, digital point-and-shoot camera and began to play with it in anticipation of documenting the future cross-country journey. “I just began to see things differently,” says Hochman. “It came very naturally to me.” He immediately began to receive compliments and encouragement from family and friends, who said his pictures were above and beyond the average snapshot. Soon he upgraded his equipment to a digital SLR for even better quality photographs.
Hochman says: “I really don’t see anything the same any more. When I look at things, I look more intently. When I see an image that catches my eye, I really look at it, and then I look at it photographically. I tend to try to crop out — figuratively — the ‘noise’ around the issue or subject.”
Hochman does a very poignant job of cropping. His images are clean and simple, and even, in photos like “78 East” and “Ring House,” sometimes austere with an almost haunting feeling. Others are full of human presence with striking economy, as in “Dizzy’s” and “Valentine’s Day.”
After assembling a portfolio of images, Hochman approached Orpha’s Coffee Shop about a year ago to inquire about exhibiting his work. They agreed, but were booked for the year. In the interim, Hochman, a Hopewell resident, approached Failte, a Hopewell coffee house, where he held a one-month exhibit, followed by another one-month exhibit at the House of Coffee in Peddler’s Village. Hochman says he enjoys the “bohemian environment” of coffee houses as a venue for art.
‘Hello Dali,” one of the photos in “Faces and Places,” is itself a bit Bohemian, a comical yet intelligent image of a man walking up the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art during last summer’s Dali exhibit. The vertical sides of each step were overlaid with slices of a blown-up image of Salvador Dali, with the waxed ends of his mustache curving oddly upward, and a rather surprised look on his face. Hochman caught the image while a man was ascending the stairs, in the area of Dali’s mustache, and it appears as if Dali is questioning, “who’s this man on my face?” Hochman has composed here a rather surreal photograph of a surrealist icon.
Hochman enjoys photographing people. “I really enjoy taking candids, in the city in particular. I like to spend a day in Central Park — there’s great material.” For example, “Tuppence” is a simple black and white image of an old man feeding pigeons, with one pigeon ironically perched on the seated man’s walking cane. “On the other side of the coin, there are always great landscapes, especially in this area,” as can be seen in Hochman’s painterly “Andrew’s Pride” and linear “Cyclone.”
“I try to take the camera with me wherever I go,” Hochman says. “Sometimes I go out specifically to take photos, sometimes they come out of nowhere, and sometimes it’s quite deliberate.”
Asked to compare acting and photography, Hochman says, “One of the things I really love about photography is that for the first time I am participating in an art form where I’m totally in charge; there is no director to answer to, no voice coach, no lighting guy, no orchestra to consider. For me it is very freeing, very empowering. I’m the director. I’m in charge.”
Faces and Places, Saturday, July 1, 9 a.m., Orpha’s Coffee Shop, 1330 Route 206, Skillman. Photographs by Arthur Hochman. Through July 31. 609-430-2828.