Ralph Cooksey-Talbott Thomas was born in 1952 in Westchester, Pennsylvania and raised first in Lapeer then in East Lansing Michigan. In the 1960’s, he became interested in the works of a number of photographic artists, Ansel Adams among them. This led him to move to Santa Barbara, California. There he began exploring the the High Sierra and studying photography.
Initially he studied under Jim Douchas, a local art photographer and zone system practitioner. During this time, he also studied and tutored photography at Santa Barbara City College, eventually becoming a regular guest lecturer in their photography program.
Cooksey attended several Friends of Photography summer workshops at Yosemite, led by Ansel Adams. He gave Ansel one of the Polaroid’s that he had shot in the Yosemite high country. The photo was later selected for inclusion in the "Ansel Adams Polaroid Technique Manuel." The print currently resides in the Eastman Permanent Collection. At one workshop, Orah Moore and Ansel suggested that Ralph shorten his name to Cooksey-Talbott and started calling him Cooksey. The change stuck and he goes by this name today, hence the name Cooksey-Talbott Gallery.
Fresh from the Yosemite experience, Cooksey attended the San Francisco Art Institute for a year, studying fine art photography and art history. After that, he attended the San Francisco Academy of Art and studied commercial photography for two years. He then worked as a senior color printer at one of the big color labs in San Francisco, making many large high quality prints for Galen Rowell and other notable artists. This job enabled him to purchase a setup of equipment and led to the founding of the Cooksey-Talbott Studio in the late 1970’s in Oakland, California.
Throughout the 1980’s and into the early 1990’s, Cooksey ran his studio, producing large and medium format commercial photographs for a wide range of national and international clients. All during this period, he often hiked high in California’s Sierra Nevada range, taking photographs of the beautiful mountain vistas seen by so few people. The studio closed in 1992 due to the bad economy and an arson fire that had previously damaged the studio's samples and equipment. Hundreds of thousands of negatives dating from 1970 through 1990 were carefully packed and put into storage.
In the early 1990's, the artist became involved in the computer revolution. He worked for many years as a computer programmer in the video game industry. He has produced the sound for over 100 video games.
Cooksey has been a strong force in the evolution of sound in computer entertainment products, taking it from beeps and boops to full orchestras and rock bands. At Sega, he wrote the Audio64 audio operating system for the "Dreamcast" console. He also pioneered the use of scent in computer-based entertainment as Director of Technology at DigiScents, an Oakland-based start-up company.
When the dot com mania imploded, Cooksey found himself sitting in a freezing, over-priced house with a lot of time and little to do. He started to break open the old boxes from the studio and digitizing their contents. After several days of wandering through the collection, Cooksey realized that there was a lot beautiful work that had never been taken past the proof stage, due to the high cost of making fine photographic prints.
Things have changed. Now the artist can show you a high quality artist’s proof of an image in your home over the Internet. This enables the showing of hundreds of images without the expense of printing and framing artist proof sets. State of the art digital ink jet printing technology allows for the creation of printed images whose quality and permanence exceeds that of photgraphic prints. Thus, the opening of the Cooksey-Talbott Gallery on the web. As time passes, more and more of the collection of nature photos spanning 30 years of work will be digitized and made available online.
Cooksey currently lives in Fremont, California with his two children, Ryan and Mia, and his girlfriend, Alison. He still enjoys hiking and photographing the California landscape and the High Sierra.