Richard D. Fisher - Narrative Account of his Career
In September, 1982, the editor of Arizona Highways magazine contacted me on an urgent matter concerning my photography of West Clear Creek, Arizona. This canyon was being considered for national wilderness designation by the U.S. Congress and no one had any photographs at all of the area. My first ever publication was in Arizona Highways, June, 1983, a feature on West Clear Creek including an outside back cover of the magazine. This canyon was subsequently designated a National Wilderness Area. My career has followed this same path on a national and international basis since 1982. I document little-known canyons worldwide and then produce scientific, educational, and promotional media materials which are not only artistic, but also practical and useful.
The Sunracer name and Kokopelli logo were chosen to describe my photography and publishing career in 1976. Beginning in the American Southwest, and then expanding into the extensive canyonlands of Mexico, Bolivia, China, USA, Tibet, Greece, Ethiopia, Australia, Spain, France, Namibia, South Africa, Venezuela, Bosnia, Monte Negro, and Corsica, I have been fortunate enough to be one of the first to photographically interpret and document previously unknown canyon landscapes and mysterious sub-cultures. My objective for the past fifteen years has been to document photographically the earth’s deepest canyons and record ancient tribal knowledge before these landscapes are lost to development and the native peoples absorbed - in essence “racing the sun” to preserve this moment in history, or Sunracer.
Leading special people into these regions over the past twenty years has been my vocation - hence the Kokopelli (flute player or pied piper) symbol. While documenting photographically rare and endangered environments, I have guided deaf, blind, juvenile delinquents, Native American youth, and educational groups. Before turning to a research and publishing based career, I guided over 1,000 very special people on five continents.
This vocation of guiding, combined with that of photography, led to the publication of 7 books and more than 100 feature magazine articles in 5 languages over the past 20 years. These books uniquely integrate a practical and educational guidebook format with recognized world class photographic presentations. All of these publications have set the standard for documentary photographic work on these topics, acclaimed by both critics and the public alike.
The following was written by the Sierra Club for a nationwide photographic tour in 1988.
“Canyoneering is synonymous with the name Rick Fisher, a 36 year old freelance photographer, veteran climber, river runner and wilderness guide credited with many first descents.
Because of isolation and inaccessibility, extreme canyons are among the truest remaining wilderness. Their natural splendors have been called “the land nobody knows.” As such, they are not often included in proposed wilderness areas. If Fisher learns of a canyon to be saved, he is there, documenting and reporting his findings. For him, it is more than an adventure. He has dedicated his life to the preservation of wilderness lands and to sharing them with others. His explorations include canyons of American’s Southwest and the five deepest canyons in North America, deeper than the Grand Canyon, the Majestic Barrancas of Mexico’s Sierra Madre.”
I received my B.S. from the University of Arizona in 1976. Additionally, I have 26 graduate hours in resource conservation, counseling, and archaeology. I have been very fortunate to be the first American to explore the earth’s deepest canyon in Tibet, sponsor the only championship ultra-long distance Tarahumara Indian racing team, to reconnect the ancient knowledge of the Hohokam and Anasazi to the modern scientific world of archaeology, and deliver over 150 tons of famine relief to the Tarahumara Indians 1992 to present. Of equal importance, I had the opportunity to be the only American to photographically document the largest crystals ever discovered on earth. I feel honored and blessed to have been “chosen” to make four significant discoveries and/or additions to the basic dialogue of human knowledge. My articles and photographs appear in Smithsonian, Readers Digest, American Way, Arizona Highways, Sierra, Outside, National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, Geo, Explorers Journal, Mexico Desconocido, Backpacker, and Asia Geographic among many others.
My goal is to publish the first comprehensive photographic documentary and encyclopedic guidebook of the earth’s deepest canyons which occur on the six inhabited continents. This guidebook will assist five specific national and/or indigenous groups redevelop their eco-tourism resource base after the disastrous 9/11 worldwide tourism downturn. My objective is to give indigenous and/or ethnic talents from remote and isolated areas of the planet a chance to participate in the global dialogue and benefit from global intellectual resources.
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RICHARD FISHER is a name synonymous with canyons. He has a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Arizona. As a freelance photographer, climber, river runner and wilderness guide he’s stacked up many first descents. He has dedicated his life to the preservation and sharing of canyon environments and cultures around the world.
Rick has a daughter, Mariah Sierra Williams Fisher, and lives in Tucson, Arizona.