Larry Fisher was there at the right time, the right place, and the right shutter speed.
His friends and colleagues — many one and the same — mourn his friendship and his remarkable ability to tell stories, big and small, without the need for words.
His dark sense of humor, she said, was a good hiding place for his decency, said Quad-City Times columnist Barb Ickes.
“Over years on assignments, we shared boat rides together, but we never accomplished it the way we agreed was best — with fishing poles in the water and beer in the cooler,” Ickes said. “It’s OK, though. Working with Larry was recreation. Godspeed.”
Todd Mizener, marketing and communications director for the Quad-City Times/Dispatch Argus, formerly was director of photography for the Dispatch.
“Larry was a true character, fierce competitor and an ace photojournalist,” Mizener said. “We battled for the best shot on many occasion. But afterward we swapped stories and always parted with a smile.”
“I loved the fact that Larry embraced video late in his career," Mizener remembered. "When so many older photogs were looking for ways to cross the finish line unencumbered by the new technology Larry embraced it,” Mizener said.
Fisher was an original, old-school photojournalist — a survivor with a biting wit and an honest tongue.
He joined the staff of the Quad-City Times in May 1975. He began his career working for the student newspaper and yearbook while attending Davenport Central High School. He was a graduate of Palmer Junior College and the Kansas City Art Institute.
He earned more than 200 local, state and national recognitions for his work over a 39-year career in photography.
“Stars are funny things. They say after they burn out, their light will continue to be seen for thousands of years, billions of miles away,” said Quad-City Times Photo Editor Kevin Schmidt. “That's how I'll remember Larry Fisher... always there, always bright."
He consistently captured wonderful award-winning images of life in the Quad-Cities for 39 years, Schmidt said.
“I got the news about Larry's passing Saturday morning... tears, I tried to keep busy mowing the lawn. Tears. A storm kicked up and I went out and chased a tornado... tears.
“I worked on my computer... tears, I thought about all the times I tried to hug Larry, and thought, by now he would have slapped me and said, 'What the ---- is wrong with you?'"
“Then I smiled.”
Among Fisher's assets was his tenacity, recalls former Times news editor Deb Brasier.
"One New Year's day, we were chasing an officer-involved fatal shooting that had happened overnight in rural Scott County," she recalled.
"Larry criss-crossed every rural road in the county looking for the farmhouse where the shooting had occurred," she said. "He was on the road for hours, searching for the location of the incident."
That time, he didn't get the photo. "But he tried until the sun went down," Brasier said. "It was one of the very few times he didn't complete an assignment."
“The thing about photographers is, they cover it all,” said Quad-City Times reporter Alma Gaul. “A reporter has a beat or area of specialty, but photographers — why, the world is their beat.”
In 39 years at the Times, there wasn’t any story, any happening, in which Fisher wasn’t involved, she said, including Presidential visits, murder trials, the John Deere Classic, football, concerts, county fairs, fires, car crashes, floods, snow, pelicans, sunspots, rainbows, fishermen, funerals, construction projects, the first flowers of spring, and labor strikes. He photographed young people, old people rich people, and poor people.
“Fearless of heights, Fisher took photos from vantage points that few would attempt to scale,” Gaul said. “He had a police scanner on his desk and in his car and if he heard of news happening, he was out the door. He had a sense of urgency, knowing that if you’re not on the scene at the beginning, you can’t make up for it later.”
When Fisher started at the Quad-City Times, cameras contained film and newsrooms were equipped with darkrooms, filled with pungent-smelling chemicals and hung with black curtains.
“Fisher was a master of the darkroom, but was the first to shoot color, the first to shoot digital,” Gaul remembered.
“Through all those changes his work remained the same: Bringing to readers worlds they otherwise would not see — taking in-focus pictures under bad lighting conditions of subjects that were moving, in color, and, on top of that, capturing the essence of the story.”
“A split second and you either have the shot or you don’t. There is no re-do,” she said.
She recalled Fisher’s most-famous picture, taken Oct. 3, 1995. It shows reactions of Augustana College, Rock Island, students to the O.J. Simpson murder trial verdict, a reaction divided according to race. “Simpson was acquitted in October of 1995, and the polar-opposite reaction among students said it all,” she said.
The picture was reproduced nationally. “Newsweek” used the image over two pages the week after the verdict.
“Fisher had been in the right place at the right time, but it wasn’t just chance or luck. It was instinct honed over years of doing his job,” Gaul said.
Gaul shared Fisher’s final assignment before retirement.
“In May of 2014, I was writing a story about a memorial ceremony for a World War II soldier from tiny Massillon, Iowa,” Gaul said.
“Fisher drew the assignment for driving out to the cemetery with me,” she remembers. “We had worked together for 37 years, and I couldn’t believe that this was really his last day. He took those pictures with as much professionalism and care as he had taken all his others. Then he turned them in and was out the door.”
“Sometimes we jokingly referred to him as a COG (Crabby Old Guy), but that wasn’t really true,” she said. “Not at all.”
A tribute in the Quad-City Times newsroom aligns perfectly with Fisher’s sense of humor: He is the only staff member to have a newsroom table named in his honor.
His desk was near an all-purpose office table used for serving when staffers brought food to the office — doughnuts for birthdays or pizza for election night.
In time, it became known as the Larry Fisher Memorial Table, and when he retired in May of 2014, his boss got a small plaque designating it as the LFMT.
Fisher and former Quad-City Times photographer John Schultz worked side-by-side on many assignments, including Presidential campaigns, the Quad-City Times Bix 7, the John Deere Classic and numerous other events.
“I'll miss his wit, his humor and him bragging proudly ‘I've only got one lung,'" Schultz said. "We shared a good part of our lives together and knowing he is no longer with us makes me very sad."
“Goodbye, my old friend,” Schultz said. “May you rest in peace and enjoy that perfect darkroom in the sky.”
Photos by Larry Fisher
Larry Fisher joined the staff of the Quad-City Times in May of 1975. Fisher began as an award winning photographer working for the student newspaper and yearbook while attending Davenport Central High School. He is a graduate of Palmer Junior College and the Kansas City Art Institute. Records indicate his name is documented on well over 200 local, state and national recognitions for his work over a 39-year career.