By Rick Fisher
My interest in photography began when I was the high school yearbook photographer. I really don’t know why I volunteered because, at the time, I didn’t even own a camera.
My father was a big 8mm movie guy, but he never used a still camera. After I was selected as the yearbook photographer, my father bought me my first 35mm camera.
Between high school and 1998, I was a casual amateur photographer. When digital was introduced, I got excited about the technology and renewed my interest.
I steadily built my skills while working a “real job” until I retired from Biogen as vice president of human resources in 2007.
I admire a number of photographers, including John Shaw, Paul Wingler, and Annie Leibovitz. John inspired me to become a professional photographer. Paul was my mentor and made me the photographer I am today.
I formed a photography business, Rick Fisher’s Photography, in 2011 and gradually began photographing everything. I did a few weddings and other events, people and pet portraits in my small home studio, and even a cookbook, which is still for sale on Amazon.
When I wasn’t photographing for money, I had an interest in horticulture and nature. I was a master gardener in Durham County, N.C., and volunteered at Duke Gardens as a propagation specialist and a volunteer photographer.
I decided to devote my photographic efforts to raising money for charities by providing photography products and services. Since 2011, I have given 100 percent of my profits – about $225,000 – to charity. I take no compensation for my work [and] also do photography for nonprofits at no charge
Between 2011 and 2017, I traveled the U.S. extensively, taking about 100 trips and amassing several hundred thousand images. I selected a few hundred of those images for my nature and travel photo book.
I had been diagnosed with dermatomyositis for several years, [but] in September 2017, I began to have shortness of breath and was losing weight. In March 2018, I was admitted to the Duke Medical ICU and told I had ALS [and] four to 10 months to live. In December 2018, [my life expectancy] was extended three months.
During 2016 and 2017, as my mobility restricted me, I began doing much of my photography in my studio and specializing on pets (and dogs, in particular). Although ALS prevented me from photographing anything in 2018, I had amassed about 50,000 dog images. Those images and contributions from a number of worldwide dog photographers make up my dog photo book.
I would describe myself as grateful, ingenious, and giving.
If I make it to June, I will be married to my wife, Beth, for 40 years. We have two daughters, Brigid and Catherine; two sons-in-law, Wayne and Mike; and two grandchildren, Madeleine and Austin. Most importantly, we have two Labrador retrievers, Emmett (the good dog) and Angus (the bad dog).
For much of my life, I was a single-digit handicap golfer. I decided to give up golf in favor of photography. I also began volunteering more as a photographer than as a propagation specialist at Duke Gardens. This year, Duke Gardens decided to use only my images for their annual 2019 calendar.
I have two photo books for sale on my website now. The dog photo book sells for $100.00 and I give $50.00 to animal shelters across the country. All profits from the sale of the 240-page nature and travel coffee table book will be donated to The ALS Association.
I can no longer hold a camera, but I can still use my mouse and computer – although my mobility is down to two index fingers.
I hope people remember me as being a help to others. And, as my email signature says, “If the will to live and the power of prayer from others makes a difference, I will enjoy a little more time on the planet than the doctors give me.”