Sunday profile: Glenwood’s Klaus Kocher focuses a wide lens on the world (video)
Born in Santiago, Chile, but the holder of a Swiss passport, Klaus Kocher had nearly been around the world and back before landing in Glenwood Springs 20 years ago.
“My whole life has been traveling,” Kocher said. “People move from state to state and think that’s a big deal, but you didn’t change languages.”
His father a plant physiologist, the Kocher family moved back and forth between the United States and Central America more than a half dozen times before Klaus graduated high school in Mexico. Afterward, and with some encouragement from his parents, Kocher went on the earn degrees in business and food technology at Iowa State.
“I was always a photographer, since the age of 12, but my parents were never going to pay for an art degree,” Kocher said.
Soon after starting college, he met his wife, LeAnn, who was in the beginning stages of earning a medical degree.
“She was 19, I was 20 and we’ve been together ever since. That was 36 years ago,” Kocher said.
After many more moves across the American Midwest and a short stay in Germany, the Kochers settled in Glenwood Springs after discovering a love for Colorado during a brief residency in Boulder.
“We didn’t want a big city like Denver, so we came to Glenwood and have been here 20 years,” said Kocher.
During the many years that LeAnn was in schooling, Klaus used his food technology degree to test chemically and biologically processed foods for bacteria, and worked for companies like Longmont Foods and three other places to analyze heavy metals.
“I’m an analytical chemist. That’s why I love the chemistry part of photography,” he said.
Through this time, however, the passion for photography never left. Kocher worked as a freelancer for newspapers, AP and other agencies. In his early 30s, he went on to Ohio University to earn a master’s degree of fine arts in photography.
That love for photography started in a middle school science class that happened to be taught by a photographer. The class learned the chemistry of developing and processing film, as well as the art of pin-hole photography. Instantly, he was sold.
“I was 12 years old and it was like the clouds opened up and there I was,” Kocher said.
Forward to 1999, Klaus is a stay-at-home dad and settling into Glenwood Springs. It didn’t take long to discover the Professional Photography Program at Colorado Mountain College.
“I didn’t even know the photo program existed. It was just a fluke,” Kocher said. Not long after, he started teaching a night class in the darkroom once a week.
“It wasn’t for the money. It was just to keep my sanity and my love for photography,” Kocher said.
He taught only the darkroom class for five or six years until his kids were older. Then, he took on two more classes as an adjunct professor.
“I don’t have to be there, but I want to be there,” he said. “Photography is a passion. I think it’s the coolest thing on this planet.”
Kocher has also been a member of the Roaring Fork Rotary Club in the past, helping to provide scholarships for Hispanic students in Garfield County.
“In general, it was for the Hispanic crowd who don’t have an opportunity,” Kocher said. “We gave a lot of money away; over $100,000.”
Kocher wanted to give other young adults an opportunity to grow much like he was given an opportunity during his adolescence.
“I was given a chance, so I want to give that chance back,” Kocher said.
His family has also hosted at least 10 Rotary Exchange students in his home from all over the world.
Though taking a personal break from the service organization, he hopes to return in a year or two.
“With education, the more you know the better chance you have of doing something,” Kocher said. “We all need to learn something.”
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