When it comes to romance, two hearts are better than one. Might it not also be true, if your passion is photography, that four eyes are better than two? Darren Ching and Debra Klomp Ching prove both in the way they’ve successfully honed and managed their stable of emerging- and mid-career artists over the last ten years at Klompching, their gallery in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn. They opened in September of 2007, bringing together a combined 40 years of experience with contemporary photography. “We pitch photographers to each other and then we respond before we come to a decision,” says Debra. “I tend to respond to the visual image first and foremost – does it work aesthetically?” says Darren. “And I approach a work more from an academic, critical-theory viewpoint,” says Debra. “So we have a good conversation: Why am I attracted to this, why are you? And nine times out of ten, we end up with an agreement that’s better because we challenged each other.”
Before they’d met, Darren and Debra had little in common, save for the fact that they both come from far-flung locales. Darren was born and raised in Hawaii, one of three children, where he showed a talent for drawing and painting. A high-school art teacher admonished him to leave Hawaii in pursuit of better instruction, and he did, first at the California College of the Arts in Oakland, and later at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University, where he studied illustration. He settled in New York City in his 20s, working as a graphic designer at Art + Auction magazine from 1995 to 1999, and then as creative director at Photo District News, where he stayed for 16 years.
Debra, meanwhile, grew up in a family of nine children in rural Australia and set out, in her 20s, to backpack across the world. She settled in the U.K., getting her B.A. in photographic studies, and then her M.A. in critical history and theory of photography, both at the University of Derby. She worked at the Arts Council of England from 1998 to 2003, and in 2003 became executive director of Pavilion, the politically progressive photography non-profit based in Leeds. One of her favorite tasks? Finding new talent at international portfolio reviews. And Darren’s? The same. The two met in 2004 at the portfolio review Rhubarb Rhubarb, in Birmingham, England, and both concur that it was love at first sight. The couple eventually settled in New York City and married in October of 2006. In September 2007, Klompching opened its doors at 111 Front Street, with a stable as diverse as it is rigorous. In 2015, the gallery relocated to an airier ground-floor space at 89 Water Street. “Together we really had an excellent skill set to take the leap,” says Debra. “We impart to potential purchasers the reasons why we’ve invested in the artist ourselves; we share our insight, our passion. But part of the skill of being an art dealer is allowing new buyers to talk and impart their impression of an artwork, and to really listen. We know that once they achieve a level of comfort, they will keep that artwork in their collection for many more years.”