George Fischer – the lens a license for adventure.
By: Andy Levy-Ajzenkopf
Hanging out of helicopters, walking across raging waterfalls and a twenty five year love affair with Quebec's Magdalene Islands... these all maketh the man that is George Fischer.
His photographs, which are sought after by tourism boards across the globe, have graced the covers of travel brochures, posters and books. From the Maldives to the Magdalene Islands, Tuscany to Toronto, Fischer's keen eye has captured the images that have helped to motivate untold thousands to travel abroad and see the sights for themselves. His work has also been seen in the Los Angeles Times, Le Monde and the Globe and Mail, among others.
It is evident from his pictures that Fischer, 50, is enthralled by the beauty and wonder of nature. He is a self-admitted nature junky. "My friends call me 'nature boy'. I am totally happy sitting by a waterfall all day long and just listening to it" he says serenely. But Fischer's photography also reflects that he is anything but tranquil.
Risk is at the heart of what he does and how he does it. "Don't talk to me about risk taking" he warns jokingly. "It's hard for me to say this but... the shot is more important to me than my life sometimes. I mean I've hung out of helicopters... " he pauses, reflecting in disbelief. "When I'm behind the camera I don't feel any danger. I feel invincible. It's really weird".
Lifestyles points out that his family might not feel the same way. Fischer just shakes his head, laughs and agrees.
To get the perfect shot, Fischer has hung onto the front 'cowcatcher' of a moving freight train in Kentucky with no harness; he has sat half exposed out of a helicopter in British Columbia; and he has negotiated a slippery ledge behind a massive waterfall in Ontario. One stunt Fischer describes, he cannot believe he survived to this day.
"It was for a shoot on the Magdalene Islands. We didn't have a helicopter at our disposal for an aerial shot. So we used a plane instead. They opened the back door of the airplane, the cargo door, and they had me tied with just a regular piece of rope around my waist. I was hanging by that. At one point the rope came undone. That was scary. Luckily there was another photographer who was with me and he grabbed my legs when he saw it."
He adds, "You know, I don't think my wife knows that story. The funny thing is, I'm afraid of heights!" he says, almost smirking.
While he has been very successful, his motivation is not solely for profit or self-gratification. While working on his 2003 book Waterfalls of Ontario, Fischer drew inspiration from world events that had affected society. "I did this waterfall book for all the people who were affected by 9/11," he states somberly. "And I wanted to create a book that would help people. I went out for a year and I photographed all these waterfalls. I wanted people to use the book for peace, tranquility and patience".
Leafing through the pages of the work in question, one is struck by the sheer exquisiteness of the pictures. One can almost hear the rushing cascade of the waterfalls captured in his shots. His drive and enthusiasm for his craft have earned him sufficient success to work as much as he pleases, picking and choosing his favorite locations for shooting.
"I can send letters now to whatever country I want and generally they respond with "ok, when are you coming?" he says. "I've always had this love affair with photography and film and taking photos since I was very young." As he says this, he gesticulates with his hands in the air, barely able to contain the energy he feels when he talks about his passion. "Everyone always commented on what great composition my photos had, even as young as 9, 10, 11 years old", he exclaims.
Walking through his office/showroom located in north Toronto, his posters of countries and cities line the walls. Some are exotic (Tunisia, Tuscany, Guatemala), others are closer to home (Montreal, Toronto, Fredericton) but all are eye-catching and full of vibrant color. It is clear he sees the world as a marvelous place. But while he strives for placidness in his work, he is all too aware of the chaos in our world. "There are many types of photographers. You have war photographers who show the ugly side of life, which needs to be shown," he pauses, struck by his own comment. But he quickly shakes off this last and follows with, "Then you have people like me who try to show the beauty of the world, because there is still beauty too."
He was recently contacted by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. They wanted some of his images for their new prostate cancer unit. "I'm very proud of the fact that those images are now there helping people who have cancer. If someone is sitting there with a diagnosis and they can focus in on one of my pictures to help them relax, then I'm happy."
Still, he is who he is. We can understand what enables him to coax the beauty out of his pictures and how his lens focuses out all his darkness. What remains is sublime. Undoubtedly Fischer will continue to work and create imagery that will lift us all for years to come―just as long as he manages to remain firmly secure while hanging out of his next perch, that is.