A few weeks ago, I found out one of my old college teachers died. Shirley Fisher was a photography teacher at De Anza College. The class I took with her had an official name of “intermediate photography,” but it was really all about experimental photography, using the camera as a creative tool. I took this course before Photoshop was ever invented, and it was one of my most enjoyable college courses I ever took. I remember trying out all sorts of different film stocks for her assignments – infa-red film, Kodalith, and I even played with some liquid photo emulsion. Through this course, I developed some great friendships I’m still in contact with, and I discovered some contemporary artists that pushed the frontiers of photographic art.
The one thing I loved about Shirley Fisher was her enthusiasm for the creative spirit. She encouraged her students to explore outside their typical circles of consciousness, and mix things up whenever possible.
Not long after I took her course, I got involved with KFJC Radio at Foothill College, which was linked in the same district as De Anza College. When the big MAXIMUM LOUIE LOUIE marathon took place, there were a lot of different LOUIE performances by all sorts of musical groups.
One of the musical groups that submitted a unique rendition of LOUIE LOUIE was known as “Shirley Fisher’s Creative Techniques Class.” Sandwiched between “Screaming Faucets” and “Sparking Godzillas,” this musical group was a collective of vocals, and guitars hammering out yet another semi-standard version that got lost amongst the 800+ versions that were aired during this very special marathon.
I have no idea if Shirley Fisher was actually involved with this recording, or even knew about its existence, but it was nice to know that she was an inspiration for recording this rendition.
After I graduated from De Anza, I never kept track of what happened to Shirley Fisher. I never went back to visit to say hello.
After a friend told me that Shirley Fisher might have died, I did a Google search to see if I could find an obituary on her. The only thing I could find was a mention of an art show that paid tribute to her, honoring her memory by exhibiting some of her photographs. She passed away in 2002, and actually taught at De Anza College for 30 years.
I wish I had a photograph* of her, but unfortunately I never took one.
To honor one of my favorite teachers, I’ll share an MP3 audio recording of “SHIRLEY FISHER’S CREATIVE TECHNIQUES CLASS” performing “LOUIE LOUIE.” I have no idea who’s actually part of this recording, but I think Shirley would probably approve.
It’ll be this week’s LOUIE of the Week!
Thank you, Shirley Fisher! You will not be forgotten!
UPDATE (July 2012):
Arlene shared an article that included a photograph of Shirley.
Click HERE to download the hi-resolution copy.
ANOTHER UPDATE (December 2012):
* Shirley’s niece Toni shared the portrait of her beloved Aunt Shirley, which is now at the top of the page!
YET ANOTHER UPDATE (November 2023:
Ann Cassidy Topping reached out with a photo and some memories of a beloved teacher that I just had to share…
I think I only met Shirley Fisher a few times in the late 70’s but I feel like I knew her because she had such a big impact on my mom, Diane Cassidy. My mom died last December and in going through her endless trove of photos, I found one of her with Shirley so wanted to post it here. I knew Shirley had passed years ago because my mom was pretty devastated by the news. Every time my mom and I happened to be driving down Blaney, past Calabasas library, my mom would say “Fisher lived around here somewhere but no one knew where exactly. She was very private about that.” I know Shirley was a huge inspiration and mentor to my mom from her early photography beginnings at De Anza but my mom’s work really blossomed when she later got into digitally-manipulated photos. Here’s an excerpt from my mom’s memoir where she references Shirley as the one who steered her in that direction: “The Macintosh computer came out in 1984. One or two of my more progressive friends had computers. For a while no one really understood what they were good for. But before long the words digital and photography became intertwined. Then one day, I think it was the summer of 1990, I happened to run into Shirley Fisher, one of my photo instructors from De Anza. In a very short time she made me realize I was stuck in the past and digital photography was the future. To make up for lost time I should hurry up and buy a computer and learn photoshop. Within days I bought my first computer—a Mac 2 cii. And I bought Adobe Photoshop 2.0 at the student price of $190. Wow. I encountered a steep learning curve but gradually, with much anguish and occasional thoughts of suicide, the computer plus photoshop software and I became acquainted. And then one day, the work intensive procedures I’d perfected in the darkroom became part of my new photoshop repertoire of tools.” Thank you, Shirley. For everyone you inspired in your time here with us. You are missed.
It’s a hoot that this little tribute that I created for one of my favorite teachers resonated with so many people!
…and I still don’t know who was responsible for the musical recording credited to “Shirley Fisher’s Creative Techniques Class.”