Artists don’t always begin as artists. Sometimes successful professional artists start their careers with an entirely different focus before finding their creative path. This has been true for Terry Cockerham, a Texas photographer who came out of college with a science degree and joined the army.
“When I finished my undergraduate degree in science in December 1971, I was immediately on my way to my first job as a second lieutenant in a 155SP artillery battalion in Europe. The good news was that I had a job in something I could relate to, in that artillery is all about mathematics, and that I would get to travel all over Eu-rope, something this Texas boy had not yet managed to do. Since I was going to visit countries I had never been to before, I decided it would be smart to buy a camera.”
Terry’s first camera was a Nikon equipped with a 28mm lens. “To be honest, I didn’t have a clue how to use it and, like so many people, I didn’t bother to read the manual… After taking hundreds, if not thousands, of really awful photographs, I decided it was time to figure out how to make the best use of this device.”
Terry began reading everything he could about the art of photography. He also utilized the base’s photography lab and learned how to process his own film. After resigning his military commission in 1975, he describes doing two things which re-aimed his life toward art: “First, I got a job at a major film processing plant so that my film would be processed for free. The second thing I did was to go back to my alma mater and sign up for the arts program. I took drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, and art history classes.”
In 1978, Terry moved to Irving, Texas, where he launched his career as a commercial photographer, and later a photojournalist, photography teacher, and freelance photographer. His affinity for traveling and his studies of well-known photographers like Ansel Adams, Eugene Smith and Minor White, ultimately led him to focus his career in the places he loves most.“
The Big Bend Project began during my first visit to the area in 2002 and has grown as a result of many annual, and sometimes biannual, return trips. The Big Bend area appeals to me on a very basic and instinctual level and offers a much-needed break from life in the city. I admire the honesty and resilience of the people and the stark, desolate beauty of the land.”
Visitors to The Grace Museum can share in the artist’s love of this area through his current solo exhibition, Terry Cockerham: Big Bend, featuring 21 black-and-white photographs from his travels which highlight the landscape’s distinctive features created by climatic and geologic changes. On Jan. 19 at 6 p.m., the public can also attend a free Artist Talk at the museum where Terry will speak in-person about his work in the context of his travels.
Terry Cockerham has generously gifted 46 original photographs to The Grace Museum’s permanent collection, many of which are included in the current show (on view through February 4). “I offer these images as a tribute to the nobility and majesty of this unique place.”
Contributed By The Grace Museum