An Artist at Heart: East End Photographer Tom Kochie Dies at 74 - 27 East

An Artist at Heart: East End Photographer Tom Kochie Dies at 74

icon 15 Photos
Tom Kochie in 2014. CHANDA HALL

Tom Kochie in 2014. CHANDA HALL

Brian Kochie, early 1990s. TOM KOCHIE

Brian Kochie, early 1990s. TOM KOCHIE

Christie Brinkley and Alan Zweibel perform in

Christie Brinkley and Alan Zweibel perform in "Celebrity Autobiography" at Guild Hall in East Hampton. TOM KOCHIE

A scene from Hampton Theatre Company's

A scene from Hampton Theatre Company's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" in 2010. TOM KOCHIE

HooDoo Loungers perform at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor in 2017. TOM KOCHIE

HooDoo Loungers perform at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor in 2017. TOM KOCHIE

A scene from Hampton Theatre Company's

A scene from Hampton Theatre Company's "Man of La Mancha" in 2019. TOM KOCHIE

"Ophelia," 2019. TOM KOCHIE

Inda Eaton, Jeffrey Marshall, B. Rehm-Gerdes, and Rose and Lee Lawler perform at the Sag Harbor American Music Festival in 2022. TOM KOCHIE

Inda Eaton, Jeffrey Marshall, B. Rehm-Gerdes, and Rose and Lee Lawler perform at the Sag Harbor American Music Festival in 2022. TOM KOCHIE

Tom and Pat Kochie's wedding poster, 1970.

Tom and Pat Kochie's wedding poster, 1970.

A young fan dances to a performance by Soul Inscribed at the Sag Harbor American Music Festival in 2019.  TOM KOCHIE

A young fan dances to a performance by Soul Inscribed at the Sag Harbor American Music Festival in 2019. TOM KOCHIE

Tom and Pat Kochie at Long Beach.

Tom and Pat Kochie at Long Beach.

Tom Kochie in 2018.

Tom Kochie in 2018.

Tina Jones and Tristan Vaughan perform in Hampton Theatre Company's

Tina Jones and Tristan Vaughan perform in Hampton Theatre Company's "Venus In Fur" in 2018. TOM KOCHIE

A performance by Elke Luyten at The Watermill Center in Water Mill in 2008. TOM KOCHIE

A performance by Elke Luyten at The Watermill Center in Water Mill in 2008. TOM KOCHIE

Tom and Pat Kochie.

Tom and Pat Kochie.

authorMichelle Trauring on Jun 7, 2023

The first time Tom Kochie ever photographed his crush, Pat, there was no film in the camera.

He wouldn’t admit that it was just an excuse to admire her until much later — well after they had married and started a family, well after they had moved to the East End, the place they called home for 45 years, where they found their community.

One week before his birthday, Sag Harbor-based photographer Tom Kochie — widely known for his event and fine art photography, gentle demeanor and creative spirit — died on Tuesday afternoon, May 30, at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset following a four-month battle with pancreatitis. His wife and their daughter, Chanda Hall, were by his side. He was 74.

“I ended up being a photographer, too,” Hall said. “My mom sometimes said, ‘Oh, he was always hiding behind his camera.’ And I was, like, no, that’s not it. That’s how he connected with people.”

“It was his identity,” Pat Kochie said.

“I find myself using the camera the same way as a way of connecting with people and increasing empathy in the world,” her daughter added. “That was important to him.”

Kochie was born on June 6, 1948, in Easton, Pennsylvania, and as a young boy aspired to be a priest, his wife reported. “He was an altar boy for many, many years,” she said, “but then he discovered rock and roll, and girls.”

His family moved to the south side of Chicago before settling in Ithaca, New York, when he was in high school, and he went on to study fine arts, with a minor in photography, at Pratt University in 1966.

He was initially attracted to Manhattan’s music scene, and it was there that he leaned into street photography, capturing the rich fabric of New York City, “searching and exploring, finding ways to express something without words,” Kochie wrote in an artist statement.

Three years later, he met his future wife on her 17th birthday on the Pratt campus.

“I was walking past and I had my brand-new overalls on — I wore overalls a lot — and I had these colored pencils I just got with birthday money,” Pat Kochie said, “and I held them up to him — I did not know him — and I said, ‘I just found out my colored pencils are watercolors.’ And he was completely …”

“Smitten,” she and her daughter said together, bursting into giggles.

The pair crossed paths multiple times, through mutual friends, before their first official date: a Rolling Stones concert in November 1969 at Madison Square Garden, with Tina Turner and Janis Joplin as the opening acts. It was a night to remember — she, the rebellious wild child, and he, her counterbalance.

She, and their friends and family, would come to know Kochie as a dreamer, compassionate and empathetic, a man who felt deeply and expressed himself freely. He was unconventional, generous with his time and talent, and invoked a sense of calm.

“He was the kind of person you would see somewhere and feel a little assurance by him being there because he was always friendly, he was always even-tempered, he was always gentle,” artist April Gornik said. “I think he had a poet’s soul.”

On Valentine’s Day, 1970, Tom and Pat Kochie married at the Queen of All Saints Church in Brooklyn — where their loved ones crowded in with hundreds of strangers who had seen posters around town advertising “The Wedding,” open to the public. He was 21, donning John Lennon-style glasses and a purple velvet suit, and she was 17, wearing a dress so short that her garter belt showed.

And in true Pat Kochie fashion, she had proposed first.

“So many people would always say, ‘Oh my God, you two, you’re so alike.’ It’s not entirely true,” she said. “But it was a symbiotic relationship. I’m not saying it was perfect — 53 years is a long time.”

In 1978, the couple moved to the East End, where Kochie — who designed store window displays to make a living — also found work as a freelance photographer. A camera around his neck, he became a fixture in the Hamptons, his work appearing in The New York Times, Dan’s Papers, The Independent and The Express News Group, where Photo Editor Dana Shaw worked with him for about 10 years.

“He was a very savvy news photographer, but he was an artist at heart,” she said. “He was always working on something; he was never idle. He was a very unique and kind person. He moved to the beat of his own drummer. I never met anyone quite like him.”

Kochie naturally gravitated toward the arts scene and, according to musician Nancy Atlas, his was always a welcome face. With a knowing smile, he’d immediately put her at ease, she said, and she knew he would create something beautiful.

“He shot moments and music and grace and madness and pain and happiness and joy and decadence for so many people and publications year after year,” she said. “He reached the sacred realm of the photographer where he was trusted and free to roam, clicking away, in full abandon.”

Various theater companies and institutions regularly sought out Kochie, as well, including The Watermill Center, Guild Hall, the Parrish Art Museum, Hampton Theatre Company and Center Stage at the Southampton Cultural Center, which is where he first met actor Shannon Gilson. She had just returned home from college, never having auditioned or performed on stage — and she felt like an outsider, sitting alone in the theater, not knowing if, or where, she’d fit in, she said.

“Tom approached me with his benevolent smile and made easy conversation that made me feel at home,” she said. “He introduced me to Pat, equally as kind and welcoming, and they became my first friends in the theater world here on the East End.”

Their relationship would continue like this for the next two decades, she said, despite any long periods between seeing each other again.

“Tom saw beauty in everything,” she said, “and had a true appreciation for the arts.”

Over the last week, tributes have poured in about Kochie to his surviving family members, who — in addition to his wife and daughter — include his son, Brian Kochie, sister, Andrea Kochie, son-in-law, Alex Hall, his granddaughters, Skye and Layla Hall, as well as his sister-in-law, Maureen Mullin, and her partner, Joanne Newbold, and sister-in-law Julia Swan.

They will remember him for his love of music, art and people, good food and any dance floor he could find. At Hall’s wedding, their father-daughter dance was “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees.

“That was the song that he taught me to dance to,” she said. “I remember him teaching me in the living room, and he just loved to dance.”

He was the best Pictionary player around, his family said, and he would never turn down a good protest. He cared about social justice, Hall said, and the importance of being a good person.

“I just like to tell people to honor him, live each day fully and be present,” Pat Kochie said. “Be present and be as healthy as you can.”

“Though his photography, he was really good at being present and he wanted to be there for all the moments,” his daughter said, “and he didn’t miss them.”

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