An interview with Georgetown's famous equine photographer
Written by Kathy Witt
“I live my dream as an artist and do what it takes to exceed clients’ and patrons’ expectations.”
-John Stephen Hockensmith
Known for his equine photography, giclée prints and stunningly beautiful coffee table books like The Gift of Color: Henry Lawrence Faulkner – Paintings, Poems and Writings and Spanish Mustangs in the Great American West, John Stephen Hockensmith has had a lifelong love affair with photography, one that is in a constant state of evolution and transformation.
Hockensmith has worked with numerous high-profile clients over the years, including Georgetown College, where he studied art and photography, Churchill Downs, Keeneland, the Kentucky Horse Park, Toyota and Universal Studios. His work has been exhibited at the Headley-Whitney Museum and the Kentucky Horse Park’s International Museum of the Horse, among other venues.
G-town Unwound (GU) wanted to learn more about the artistry, photography, printmaking and writings of this prolific creative known more familiarly as Steve and share his story with readers.
GU: With your professional career having begun in 1978, how have you kept things fresh through the decades?
Steve: From our first day in 1978, when I opened a frame shop and gallery, Frame House of Georgetown, on South Broadway, we have constantly been evolving. Hockensmith Photography moved onto Main Street in Georgetown in 1982 as a photography studio. In 1991, the company grew into darkroom services and became Hockensmith Photographics, Inc.
With the advent of digital photography, Hockensmith Photographics dove into the digital world in 1999. In 2001 we began to explore giclée printmaking using wide-body printers and archival pigment inks specializing in art prints. Hockensmith Fine Art Editions Gallery & Press was established as a DBA (doing business as) in 2006 with our first book, Gypsy Horses and the Traveler’s Way.
GU: What can visitors to the shop expect today?
Steve: Over the last 15 years, we have gone full circle to reemphasize our gallery, our custom frames services and our photographic services.
Today we offer video service, drone photography, corporate business profiles and, on the softer side, family, senior and pet photography. We have an excellent but small staff: Mark Sweazy, gallery manager and custom art framer; Darlene Nelson, web services and office manager; and Brett Henson, video specialist and photographer.
GU: What do you love about downtown Georgetown and having your business located there?
Steve: Georgetown is a beautiful hometown. I grew up here and have witnessed the controlled growth that has graced Scott County to Toyota and its subsidiaries. Our city and county planners have preserved Georgetown’s Main Street historical and pictorial nature and our green space throughout Scott County. We are a busy little town, but it always seems to be at a comfortable pace.
GU: What do you want visitors, clients and patrons to know about the Gallery?
Steve: We are known for many things: equine art, Kentucky landscape art, Kentucky Derby art, mural art installations, giclée printmaking, custom framing, art exhibitions. But I hope that our patrons and clients think of us as ‘creatives who are in the pursuit of perfect expression.’
GU: What makes Hockensmith Fine Arts Editions & Press unique?
Steve: I suppose that my favorite response from a long-time client, art collector Ron Vance, was when he visited a pop-up exhibit of my circus shadow canvas artwork and said, ‘I guess that by now I shouldn’t be surprised by the creative directions in your work.’
I suppose you can say anything to anybody, but Ron’s expression of ongoing surprise warms my heart and summarizes my career.
Located at 146 E. Main Street, Hockensmith Fine Art Editions Gallery & Press offers in-person shopping, curbside pickup and home delivery as well as Zoom conferencing.
“We offer our clients and patrons service and goods in ways that will meet their needs and expectations,” said Steve.
Covid-19 protocols were implemented at the shop immediately as of February 2020 and remain in place. Steve said he and the Gallery staff used the “slow-down time” to reorganize and launch 2021 plans for its ever-evolving business platform, which resulted in new corporate services called Fine Art Photographics.
“Despite our world’s suffering, these were pivotal days for moving into a brave new business world for a small business,” he said, perfectly summing up his and his gallery’s philosophy in evolving and growing.
Georgetown is indeed a busy little town. See all the downtown shops, restaurants and galleries, along with updated hours, here.
Win, place or show with equestrian-themed art
Find beautiful, framed photography and books celebrating Kentucky’s love of horses and horseracing, including the “greatest two minutes in sports,” at Hockensmith Fine Art Editions Gallery & Press.
Author: Kathryn Witt
Kathryn Witt is an award-winning travel and lifestyle writer, syndicated columnist and author of several books, including Secret Cincinnati, The Secret of the Belles and Atlanta Georgia: A Photographic Portrait. A member of SATW, Authors Guild and the Society of Children’s Books & Illustrators, she lives in northern Kentucky.