THE HISTORY AND MISSION OF THE FISHER PRESS
The Fisher Press was founded in 1976 as a small photographic editions shop in Newport, Rhode Island by the photographer and printer Richard Benson. He started it after having worked for a number of years in the darkrooms at the Meriden Gravure Printing Company in Connecticut. At Meriden, Richard pioneered new techniques for reproducing black and white photographs in print, using multiple tonal and colored separations — work he continued on his own in the early 1970s before moving back to his hometown in Newport.
The press only lasted a short time before Richard took a job teaching photography at the Yale School of Art. He continued making photography books throughout his life however, in editions published by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Metropolitan Museum and MoMA in New York, as well as other institutions he had built relationships with while working at Meriden.
Richard (known as "Chip" to family and friends) was my uncle, but at only 17 years older than myself, he felt more like a big bother. I hung around him at every opportunity as little brothers are apt to do. Between the ages of 14 and 28, I made etchings in his studio, showed him my paintings whenever I finished one and spent enormous amounts of time watching over his shoulder as he worked at all the different photographic skills he amassed through his long career.
When I was 21, Chip hired me as a part-time assistant on a large, offset-printed book project titled Photographs from the Collection of the Gilman Paper Company. I helped set up the press that the Gilman Company purchased for the job and assisted on the initial color proofing for the project. That year working for Chip inspired in me a love of photographic printing, and of books in general. Above all, I learned from Chip what a good print looks like — a vital prerequisite to being able to make one.
In 1988, I moved to New Mexico where I also worked part-time for the book designer Eleanor Morris Caponigro. Much as Chip had done for my appreciation of photography, Eleanor showed me what good book design looks like, especially with respect to the subtle art of image-sequencing, which is crucial to carrying a narrative through any picture book's layout. Both these early mentors set the hook of a now decades-long interest in making books about art.
In 1994 I became interested in the then emerging field of digital imaging and desktop publishing. I bought a Mac computer, a copy of Adobe Photoshop, and one of the first crude inkjet printers made by the Epson Company. Over the next six years, as the technology became more refined, I honed my skills alongside it. In 2000, I used one of Epson's first photographic quality printers — the 2000P — to publish a folio of prints of my own oil paintings. Since then, I have made monographs and catalogues of my work, as well as a steady stream of books about other artists. These editions were initially inkjet-printed, hand-bound volumes made in small runs of fifteen to sixty copies. More recently, I have made a pair of retrospective artist's biographies, and several museum catalogues in larger offset or digital Indigo-printed editions that I designed and had produced elsewhere.
The Fisher Press is not a traditional publishing house of the sort that underwrites the production and distribution of books in exchange for marketing and copyrights. Neither is it exactly a for-hire service. We mainly work on collaborative projects with other artists — books for which we tend to fundraise together with our clients in order to get them published.
In the main, the press is a curatorial tool for preserving and promoting my own art, the work of my prodigiously creative family, and of other artist friends and colleagues whom I like and admire.