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The Magic of Stephen Fisch

A great photographer doesn't just happen. While the technique helps to add to the image, the magic comes from deep within. Stephen Fisch has that magic. A second generation Angeleano, Stephen began to unleash his gift as he held a small Kodak Instamatic camera in his curious hands.

He remembers always loving to take snapshots. In the 8th grade, his class was assigned a science project and he decided to develop a roll of film for his project.  He was intrigued by the process and thought his teacher would find it interesting.  After “cold-calling” the nearby Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer photo lab in Culver City and having the good fortune to connect with someone who was nice enough to invite him to visit the lab, he rode his bike onto the MGM lot and embarked on a life-long journey.  As this man showed him the process he realized he was hooked!

Filled with excitement he took this newfound knowledge into his home. He bought the necessary tank and chemicals, a roll of film and prepared a presentation to wow his science class. He was now on the path from which he has lived much of his life.  And he continues to wow us.

At 15 he began taking every photography class offered in High School. He wanted to learn as much as he could. During his junior and senior years he enrolled in 5 classes. Arnold Rubinoff was his instructor and inspiration. His conversation is still peppered with lessons this man offered him...a solid technical background for him to carry along side his precious cameras.

Stephen was ready to move up to better equipment by the time he celebrated his 16th birthday. He asked his parents for a Miranda Sensorex Camera. When he told them the cost, $200.00, his mother said, "Get a job!"

Not allowing money to cloud his dream, he did just that. With his mother's help, he was able to get a job as box boy in the local grocery store. After a year of part-time work he had earned enough money to realize his dream and bought the new camera and lenses.

In school, his teacher, Arnie, sent him out with a friend and fellow photographer classmate to cover a football game. His friend had a new Leica, and Stephen was given a $2.00 plastic camera made in the Far East. This proved to be a perfect test of his innate talent. They were each given one roll with 12 shots.  While the technical quality of his friend's photos may have been better, Steve's eye was clearly evident and, he learned a great lesson: what he had naturally ran much deeper than the camera you could buy. The friend's photos were simply photographs, albeit nice photographs, while Stephen's were more. His parents realized this love of photography was here to stay and they generously built him a darkroom in the corner of the garage.

  Helping others with volunteer work was how his mother filled much of her life. Several of the organizations she worked with, served to propel Stephen in his budding career as a photographer.

The Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce hired him to take photos at conventions and functions. His images were used in brochures and for advertising and marketing.  High School was a springboard for his photography. He was actually developing a commercial business. While still working in the grocery store, and with thanks to his father, he was hired by a school in Pasadena to take yearbook head shots of students. He now had official clients.

Just before graduating, Stephen was hired by small production company in Westwood--to help clean their facility. Through that exposure, three months later he was given his first serious assignment…not speaking a word of German, he was asked to lay in a German narration soundtrack to an Academy Award winning film they had worked on.

Disappointed with a rejection from the college of his choice, UCLA, he decided to join the Naval Reserve in March of 1969. This turned out to be a gift in disguise.  He learned the Navy had a professional photography program and it was his and their good fortune that he was accepted to this photography “A” school in Pensacola, Florida.

The program was divided into 4 one-month long segments. They began with the view camera, which Stephen had never worked with, and he relished every moment.  The next segment was the 4x5 Speed Graphic, which he already knew inside and out from High School. On the first day of the Speed Graphic segment he asked if he could take the final exam – and they said ‘yes’.  The next day he began the third segment. In 3 months he completed the 4-month program and had earned recognition as class valedictorian.  On active duty he was the man with the combat camera. Always shooting both films and still photographs.

Although in the Navy, Stephen was still just a kid. Getting along well with others was not his strong suit. From time to time his immediate superiors wrote him up for indiscretions, which meant he had to appear before his Commanding Officer, who was a short, cigar-chomping man from the south.   The Commanding Officer liked Stephen's enthusiasm enough to become his protector.  

While on assignment for 6 months in the Philippines, he bought his first Canon camera, the F1.  He used that camera for 25 years. He referred to it as “the hammer,” because it could take photographs and seemingly pound nails too. 

In August of 1972, now done with active duty, two pivotal events occurred:  1) To complete his Naval Reserve obligation he was assigned to Naval Air Reserve Mobile Photo Unit at Naval Air Station Los Alamitos, affectionately known as ‘the Hollywood Unit,” and 2) he got his first television network job on Rowan and Martin's 'Laugh In. (This was his stepping stone into the world of entertainment.) Thereafter Stephen stayed in film production while simultaneously attending UCLA Film School and earning his BA Degree.  After graduation, he spent the next 10 years working in film and television production, while still keeping his finger on the shutter release of his Canon.  Circumstances changed, and he enrolled in and graduated from law school to become an in-house business and legal affairs executive for studios and networks.  At the same time, he stayed in the Naval Reserve doing his photography, and after graduating UCLA he was commissioned as a Public Affairs Officer with a motion picture and television specialization.

Writing a book and producing a feature documentary are how Stephen is spending his time at the moment. The book, My Morning Walk: Malibu, a collection of his Android cell phone beach photographs, co-written with New York Times bestselling author Brittany Ryan. The documentary, Angels in the Sky, the story of the birth of the Israeli Air Force in 1948, with producer Mike Flint and composer Allan Jay Friedman.

With his Canon 5D Mark III camera and a 24mm-105 mm lens or a 70-200mm lens Stephen is off capturing the world with his special vision. His advice to you, dear readers, is to shoot into the sun and use the power of the sun to light hair, etc., and use your fill-in flash if needed, all depending on the how the light falls! And, pay attention to your mood. It does affect your work. If you feel good it will show in your photographs.

  For this worldly and talented man there is a bucket list that includes a safari to Africa to photograph the animals and landscapes.  A “photo documentarian” is how he describes himself. It is about his eye. How he sees things. He just gets into a mode. This mode is his nature. He is always the one with the camera. Even in social gatherings or at family events, he is the one capturing the moment in his own spectacular way, with his own special magic!