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Picture Perfect

FESTIVAL HONOREE – West Tennessee Strawberry Festival president, Ashley Culpepper (right) and general chairman, Melissa Swingler (left) proudly announce Rick Fisher as honoree of the 80th annual Strawberry festival. Fisher has been the festival official photographer for decades. He holds a copy of the magazine with Territorial Queen Fran Harper on the cover, his first festival queen to photograph.

Fisher named WTSF Honoree

by Danny Wade

Over the years, local photographer Rick Fisher has taken thousands upon thousands of pictures, possibly millions. And many of those shots were the official Strawberry Festival photographs and pictures of festivals.

To recognize all his talent and commitment to dozens of festivals, Strawberry Festival President Ashley Culpepper and General Chairman Melissa Swingler proudly announced last week that Fisher is honoree of the 80th West Tennessee Strawberry Festival this year.

“I started taking pictures for the Strawberry Festival in 1979,” Fisher recalled. “Fran Harper was Territorial Queen and Janet Thompson was Hostess Princess. I’ve photographed the pageants since 1977, and horseshows and parade pix.”

“When you think about someone to honor, you think of people who have given a lot to the festival, someone who has done it a long time, someone committed,” Culpepper said. “You think of people like Rick Fisher who have given selfishly to the festival, to advance it and make it the best.”

“I got started in photography when I borrowed Ron Haney’s camera,” Fisher said. “I took pictures of my cousins and other people. One day I got asked, ‘how much for a picture?’ and I thought, ‘you mean I can make money selling pictures?’ and the rest is history.”

While Culpepper was contemplating who he would select to be honoree, he and his wife, Beth, and his sister, Swingler, all wanted to select someone who had been involved with the Strawberry Festival for quite a while. Fisher was their man.

“He was coming to take pictures of the train bearers and flower girls,” Culpepper said of the day he asked Fisher to be honoree. “I pulled him aside and asked him.”

“When he asked, I had one of those ‘What?’ moments,” the jokester Fisher said. “I went home and told Jeanne (his wife) they picked a loser for honoree. She asked, ‘who?’ and I said ‘me’.”

In 1977 he opened his first studio, Fisher Photography, located on Main Street behind Duvall Drugs. Later he moved the business to a house on S. 17th Ave., and remodeled it to fit the needs of a photography studio. He moved once again, back to a new location on Main Street.

Another Humboldt favorite, Joe Bass, had his own photography business, Bass Studio, located on 22nd Ave. When Bass got sick, Fisher closed his own studio to help his friend. The business became Fisher-Bass Studio in 1993. Bass passed away in 1994.

“Later I moved back to Main Street, next door (to his previous location),” said Fisher, who changed the name back to Fisher Photography and again, remodeled another location. “That’s why I’m such a good carpenter,” he joked.

Fisher moved his studio one more time to a house on Hwy. 152, right outside of Humboldt. The name changed to The Studio.

He retired and closed his retail location but still worked on location for weddings and other special events. Fisher is now semi-retired and recently bought a box truck and converted it into a mobile photography studio, It’s been operating a couple of months now.

He still does weddings, family portraits and practically any type of photography, but now he travels to the customer’s location instead of them coming to him.

When asked how many weddings he had worked, Fisher said he counted about three years ago and had over 1,500 so he stopped counting. Add to that all of the birth/baby pictures, family portraits, school pictures, sport pictures, strawberry festivals and countless other occasions, it would be a fare guess to say he’s taken pictures of tens-of-thousands of local people.

For a short time, Fisher took crime scene photos for the police department and also worked taking pictures for insurance companies. He worked for The Chronicle for a stretch doing darkroom work and printing their pictures.

Growing up as a small lad, Fisher lived in the country and was not able to attend Strawberry Festival parades but he could hear the bands playing from his house. His first parade he attended was in 1964 after his grandparents bought a house on 12th Ave and Mitchell in Humboldt.

“My first parade, it was hot,” Fisher recalled. “I’ll never forget, Governor Frank Clement came in (his grandparent’s house) and got a glass of water.”

Later as a teenager, Fisher marched in the parades with the band. He played French horn and trumpet. He also pulled floats in the Junior Floats Parade. One of the “coolest” parades for Fisher was performing in the reunion band with many of his former classmates.

“Most of the time, I was so busy (taking pictures), you don’t see the parades,” Fisher noted.

FESTIVAL PHOTOGRAPHER – WTSF honoree, Rick Fisher, takes pictures of the grandstands during the 2009 Grand Floats Parade. Fisher has been the official festival photographer since 1979.

“That’s one reason I picked Rick (as honoree),” Culpepper added. “He’s rarely enjoyed a festival. He’s always been working them.”

“He’s been a part of the best of people’s lives, taking pictures of festivals, births, weddings, you name it,” Culpepper said. “He’s witnessed people’s most memorable days and captured it on film. People look back and see old pictures. They say, ‘that was the best day of my like’.”

“It’s never disappointing,” Fisher said of the Strawberry Festival. “For 80 years, it’s not disappointed yet, even when it’s raining.”

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