Finally Behind the Lens


Over the past few weeks I’ve been photographing the furniture and tools of 19th-century Maine furniture maker Jonathan Fisher. This is part of a four or so year long research project I have been working on to tell the story of this rural polymathic Harvard-trained minster/artisan. For more information about this fascinating research, you read about it here or refer to my piece in American Period Furniture in 2014. The book is under contract to be published by Lost Art Press in 2017 and thanks to grants from both the Early American Industries Association and the Society of American Period Furniture Makers, I have been able to dig deep examining the numerous surviving objects as well as research the broader historical context in which Fisher worked. I’ve been able to spend a week with Charles Hummel at the Winterthur Museum and have been to Old Sturbridge Village to glean what I can about the big picture of the Fisher narrative. I also have been working with the Dedham Historical Society to dig up information about Fisher’s housewright uncle. (It was at his shop that Fisher made a bunch of his tools.)

Jonathan Fisher, self-portrait

Jonathan Fisher, self-portrait

One of the many planes made by Fisher

So you can imagine my delight to setup the photography backdrop in the Fisher house the week after they closed for the season. The “museum” photography is just about wrapped up now and I have another list of shots of the interior of the house set up to do. Once these are complete (and M&T Issue Two is out the door to the printer), I am buckling down and devoting my entire winter to pulling together the various bits and pieces of research and (very) rough chapter drafts so that I can have the manuscript in Chris’ hand this spring.

Ribbon-back side chair attributed to Fisher

His turning tools

I am so honored to be able to do this research. Fisher’s last biographer was talking with the president of the board during his research and remarked that he was shocked that no “furniture person” had yet picked this story up. When I was first exposed to it, I was jaw dropped. It was too good to be true. How could all of this furniture and the tools used to make it survive and no one seems to know about it? This book needs to be written.

A shopmade saw

One of several "light stands" made by Fisher

Evidence of the craftsman's hand