Published Friday, November 14, 2014 Updated on Friday, November 14, 2014

Good-Bye to a Master

Local Photographer Passes Away

One of the West’s truest, most inspired artists, David Stoecklein, died earlier this week at the age of 65.  Mr. Stoecklein, who called Ketchum home, had been one of the West’s premier photographers for the last 25 years, documenting cowhands, rodeoers, sportsmen, landscapes, and animals like few others before him.

You’ve likely seen his work, whether you know it or not.  I estimate that his photo of the cowkids sitting on the top railing of a rodeo fence, “The Lesson” (see below), is in about one-third of the bars in the Western United States.  Stoecklein’s best photos—and he has a lot of them—make your heart jump for a second, and you can feel the cells in your head expand and glow for a moment.  Some of them even pop.

The fact that he called Ketchum home, and that so much of his work was shot in Idaho, makes his passing all the more poignant for those of us who live in the Wood River Valley.  Here at Sun Valley Sotheby’s International Realty, we’ve often used Stoecklein’s images in our promotional materials, because they are just so so good.  He turns sunsets into quilts, old barns into mountain temples, and shaggy horses into steeds that pulled the chariots of Greek gods.  Stoecklein had the power to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary, which perhaps explains why, at least for me, my heart and brain get frothy in the presence of his work—I’m viewing something greater than terrestrial images.  And he did it all here in the West, milling the very grist that so many of us identify with:  mountains, animals, just being outdoors.  Really, if anyone ever questions why you live out West, show them David Stoecklein’s website (; his gallery is on 75, just past the Warm Springs turn off).  They’ll get it in about two seconds.

A former area real estate agent who worked with David sent us this:  “David’s passion, personality, and smile was infectious.  He gave me so many opportunities as a young woman in the 80's, working in his office and skiing for him.  David's love of the West and passion for keeping it alive is unparalleled.  For those who have been so fortunate to have known David and his work, we are richer for it in so many ways.  Never forgotten, always loved; your spirit lives on in our hearts.”

Our job when any artist we admire and love passes is to try to internalize just a tiny bit of their vision into how we see and interact with the world.  I hope you take some really good pictures in the next few weeks, better than you’ve ever taken, in honor of David.  Thank you, Mr. Stoecklein, for leaving so much of your vision here with us on earth.  We see better because you saw so well.

Stoecklein's The Lesson

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