Years of Smith Faces: The Work of Dick Fish
by Dick Fish:
Iva Dee Hiatt
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
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