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   Date: 10/7/09 Bookmark and Share

Fifty Years of Smith Faces: The Work of Dick Fish

Portraits by Dick Fish:

Iva Dee Hiatt

Steve Monteiro

Harry Childs

Charles Robertson

Mahnaz Mahdavi

By Julie Colatrella ’12

Dick Fish, who has been photographing the important faces of Smith College since 1959, when he joined the Smith staff as a photographer, has compiled some of his most striking portraits in a collection titled “Now & Then: Fifty Years of Smith Faces,” on display in the Jannotta Gallery, Hillyer Hall, through October 19.

The exhibit features 80 commercial photographs of some of the most recognizable figures at Smith over the past 50 years, and contains both black-and-white and color portraits.

Except for two spur-of-the-moment inspirations, all the pictures in the collection were taken for official college business, such as publicity requests, book jackets, and other purposes. For that reason, the portraits are not framed, Fish notes.

“These are not precious items,” says Fish of the portraits, underscoring a distinction between artistic and commercial photography, “they’re just pictures of people.”

Nonetheless, Fish’s inspiration is no less impassioned. “I think people are the most important part of my life and I suppose that’s why I do portraits,” said Fish. Though his collection includes such historic figures as John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Robert Frost, Fish denies having a favorite.

“Some of them are people I love,” he explains, “some have been and are important to the college. There have been lots of people who have come to Smith and I have been honored to meet them.”

Fish says he works hard to put his subjects at ease behind the camera, adjusting to the many different personalities. His favorite part of the job is interacting with, talking to, viewing, and “just plain meeting” the people he photographs.

Though his exhibition is not posted in any particular order, color distinguishes photographs taken within the past seven years from the older black-and-white portraits.

Fish says he “just felt it was time” to bring together his work from the past 50 years for a project that took a year of contemplation and an additional year of scanning, retouching, and preparation. Reflecting on the past and his collection as a whole, Fish recounts proudly that there is “a wide breadth of humanity that we have at Smith, which we certainly didn’t have 50 years ago.”

The photographer believes his exhibit will warm the spirits of those who recognize the subjects of his portraits, reminding visitors that many of these are Smith faces that haven’t been seen in years.

Fish’s studio in Hillyer Hall is itself like a retrospective exhibition, the walls lined with portraits of people he knows.

“I look at [a picture of] somebody every day, and I still get a kick out of it,” he says.

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