“Who is that fellow always taking our pictures?” I was asked one day after a dress rehearsal in Hertz Hall. “Oh,” I replied, “that’s Bill Hocker, the man responsible for all those magnificent photographs of our concerts.” You may not even have noticed him because he works quietly and he’s an unassuming, gentle man. Bill calls himself an amateur photographer, but his photos are of the highest professional quality.
Bill began taking photos of BCCO in the spring of 2011, near the end of Arlene Sagan’s era. The husband of chorus singer Mui Ho, he was originally attracted to the space and architecture of St. Joseph the Worker Church, but he says that once he started photographing the chorus he was hooked.
Mui and Bill went on tour to Central Europe with BCCO, where Bill took remarkable photos in every venue we performed in. The biggest challenge was St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest. Because there was no balcony, he struggled to find the right perspective on the chorus. Ever inventive, he shared a 15 foot stepladder with another photographer at the venue, a stranger to Bill and the chorus.
Originally an architect by profession, Bill began experimenting with photography in college using a big format camera. He took time off to volunteer in the Peace Corps in Tunisia in the mid-1970s, bringing 20 rolls of film that had to last for the better part of two years. He contrasts the relatively small number of photos he produced from those rolls with the 7000 he now routinely takes in his travels, thanks to the digital age.
Even with new technology, however, BCCO presents some serious challenges, namely depth of field. Go to our website and look at the stately photograph of BCCO singing Bach’s St. John Passion—all 200 + of us on stage in a large multi-tiered arc, with every face in focus. (http://bcco.org/st-john-concert-photo) Bill took multiple shots and carefully spliced them to create that panorama; if you hover with your cursor over any face, it enlarges and pops into focus.
Bill’s talents don’t stop at photography. If you Google him you’ll find a reference to “Wm. Hocker Toy Soldiers.” Since 1985, Bill has been creating tin toy soldiers painted in authentic period uniforms. His work is in the tradition of the renowned English toy soldier producer William Britain, Jr. Bill initially focused on the Victorian period, rich with Colonial wars and strikingly colorful regiments, then he moved onto American soldiers. He also began to assemble figures from the American West such as kachinas, Buffalo Bill, Ghost Dancers, and gold miners (and yes, Mark Twain). His latest work focuses on “The Great War.” For over 30 years, this has been Bill’s passion and his profession. Treat yourself to an hour perusing Bill’s various web sites—his travel photographs, multiple years of BCCO photos, and his miniatures—and I guarantee that you’ll find images that will capture your imagination.
And the next time you see a quiet man with a camera at our concerts, introduce yourself and thank him for gracing us with such a rich photographic record of our performances.