Best of 2015 Honoree: Dick Busher

by | Aug 9, 2017 | Best of 2015

Seattle Busher has been drawn to nature since he bought his first camera. After a successful career as a commercial interior, architecture and garden photographer, he switched to fine-art photography and returned to his first interest. Focusing on intimate details over what he calls “heroic landscapes,” he travels throughout the Pacific Northwest, California and Utah to capture painterly photographs of the outdoor world.

“I’d like to show [a detail] to the viewers and have them wonder, `How big is that waterfall? Is that an aerial view, or a macro photograph? What, exactly, am I looking at? I would never have thought to shoot that,’” Busher says.

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ASMP: How long have you been in business, and what are your photographic specialties?

Dick Busher: I started my business in 1975, and my first specialty was architecture. However, I bought my first camera in 1969 (at the age of 28), and my first project was to teach myself the Zone System photographic technique. At the time I was a graduate student in physics and mastering the Zone System by myself was relatively easy. After a short time shooting architecture, I tried my hand at interiors. I taught myself lighting techniques by studying images I liked in interior design magazines.

Over the years I also taught myself to shoot food and objects. I’ve never felt comfortable shooting people. Most of my commercial work has been interiors and art objects.

ASMP: How long have you been shooting landscapes and nature? Where have you traveled?

DB: Right from the get-go I was shooting landscapes and nature. I have also been shooting what I like to refer to as the “Aaron Siskind memorial chipped-paint photograph”, which are vignettes of manmade objects in a state of decay or neglect.

Most of [my outdoor] work has been in the Pacific Northwest, although some of it is from Utah and California. I’ve traveled much more extensively shooting interiors throughout the US, Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean. However, I stopped shooting commercially nine years ago. I’m now exclusively immersed in the fine-art world, back to square one.

ASMP: What draws you to the scenes you choose, and what do you want to show to the viewer?

DB: I’ve always been drawn to nature and the outdoors. My mother was a farmer’s daughter and I grew up hiking, fishing and camping in Connecticut and Rhode Island. When I moved to Seattle I added climbing to the mix.

What interests me the most seems to be what interests most people the least: vignettes, details, the things I find at my feet. Sometimes I’m tempted to capture a heroic landscape, but capturing an intimate detail gives me more pleasure. I’d like to show that to the viewers and have them wonder: “How big is that waterfall? Is that an aerial view, or a macro photograph? What, exactly, am I looking at? I would never have thought to shoot that.”

ASMP: What is your process for capturing and processing your images?

DB: I still shoot film. There is a tactile feel to film that I don’t get from digital. I’m also a high-res guy and most of my work is with 4 x 5 film. I used to process both negatives and transparencies myself, but have outsourced that for the past ten years or so.

I then drum scan the film with my Heidelberg Tango, and make prints with a large format inkjet printer. With the Tango I can make files from 4 x 5’s up to 6GB, but my usual scan is ~ 1.2GB in size. With my printer I can go up to 44 x 55 inches, which would be roughly the equivalent of a 10 x 15-inch print from 35mm. The detail I see in my large prints is quite remarkable.

ASMP: What do you consider your most valuable tool or piece of equipment?

DB: The Tango scanner. There are very few drum scanners being made today, and I don’t believe that any of them are its equal. As long as I can keep it running, I’ll be happy.

ASMP: Are there any particular photographers or other artists whose work inspires you?

DB: Ansel Adams, of course, inspired most of us landscape photographers. Edward Weston, Minor White and the other giants of their era were also inspirational.

However my most inspirational photographer is one most people have never heard of, my very dear friend Johsel Namkung. I met him in 1970, introduced by a mutual friend. He helped me refine my vision, and his work still does that to this day. I’ve published two of his books (Did I mention that I am also a publisher and book producer?). Both books were award-winning publications due to the quality of his work, my skillset as a color separator and designer, plus excellent printing. I also had the honor of publishing “A Retrospective” of his work in 2012, a year before he passed away at 94 years of age. Johsel was a master of his craft, and in my view the equal to any landscape photographer I’m familiar with.

ASMP: How long have you been an ASMP member? What initially prompted you to join?

DB: I’ve been a member of ASMP since 1979, first as a General Member and now as a Life Member.

I attended my first ASMP meeting thanks to an invitation from a colleague. It was a meeting devoted to pricing. Several established professionals showed examples of their published work and asked the audience to estimate what the fee had been for each publication, ranging from editorial to national advertising usage. For each example all of the guesses were low, often off by 50 percent or more. When that fact sunk in, I decided then and there that I needed to join this organization. I needed help for my business. The collective wisdom and knowledge of those members was the help I needed, and most importantly they were willing to share.

ASMP: What do you consider the most valuable aspect of your ASMP membership?

DB: Education and advocacy. Both require funding, i.e. dues paying members. It’s as simple as that.