It was his wine connections, developed over a 45-year career, that helped Southern California photographer and former wine retailer Gary Fishman find a gallery for his first photography show.

Fishman will host his photo exhibit, “Sites & Insights, Fishman Photography, The Ego has Landed,” in the gallery at Rutherford’s St. Supery Winery, 8440 St. Helena Highway. The exhibit will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, March 23 and Sunday, March 24. Admission is free and Fishman said he’ll be onsite both days … to discuss both wine and his photography.

Fishman retired from selling wine last September. In his career, Fishman worked in key retail outlets in Southern California, including Duke of Bourbon, 1976-1980; Irvine Ranch Farmers’ Markets, 1981-1989 and Wally’s Wine & Spirits from 1990-2018. Along with selling wine, Fishman said photography has been part of his life for the last 19 years.

In 2000, he took his $100 Nikon film camera on a two-week trip to Spain. “I’d had that camera for many, many years and I took phenomenal photographs. I came back and showed my friend, Lori Griffin of Griffin Wine Marketing. I went to her house for dinner, because I was going to debrief her on my trip and I brought my photographs.” With Fishman, no story is short and sweet. The bottom line, though, is that Griffin loved his photos and told him she had just invested in an art gallery in Venice, California. She also told him she’d love for him to pick out 30 or 40 photographs and do a weekend show.

So, he picked out the photos, had them enlarged and made a journal of his trip to accompany the images on the wall.

He served wines and foods from Spain to go with the photographs and the show was “very successful as far as I was concerned,” Fishman said.

After Fishman retired, he thought he’d develop a fine art photography business. “I’d never done it before, but I always had a pretty good eye for photography. Even when I was 8, 9 and 10 years old, I’d be the one to take the photographs,” he added.

Fishman and his wife, Judy, also put together a photo collection, starting with 20 photos that he had enlarged and hung on walls at Wally’s Wine & Spirits offices in Southern California. He’s added a dozen more photos, so there will be about 30 pieces in the Rutherford show.

“I figured my first show was going to be in Los Angeles,” but after asking about L.A. locations and finding none, Fishman thought about Northern California and his friends and connections in Napa and Sonoma counties. “Maybe Napa is the way to go,” he said. “Let’s open in Napa and I’ll do the L.A. show later.”

He approached several of his friends but struck out until he reached Paula Kornell, whose late father served as a witness at Fishman’s 1978 wedding at Domaine Chandon. Paula Kornell asked if he had checked out St. Supery and then gave him an email introduction to Emma Swain, who is the chief operating officer of St. Supery.

Fishman said Swain wanted to see some photographs, so he sent five or six and a few weeks later, the show was set for March 23-24.

“I came up here in December,” Fishman said, to check out the gallery and he was thrilled at what he calls a dream gallery – 80 feet long, with professional hanging materials, seating in the middle of two adjoining salons and a bar with a reception area.

His framed pieces run from $1,500 to $15,000. The show includes one piece that’s a photo of a sunrise, put on very fine-grain canvas. “It is four feet by five feet, it will be my signature piece and it will be 15 grand.”

His subjects are whatever appeals to him, whether it is a beautiful sunrise or sunset “or a corroded silo that I came across in New Zealand. The colors of rust and corrosion drew me to it,” he said.

One of his best photos was taken during his first trip to New Orleans. “I got out of a cab, looked down at the sidewalk, which was cracked with weeds growing through it. The patterns of cracks and everything was very interesting,” Fishman said.

In his 45-year career in the wine industry in Southern California, Fishman figures he’s circumnavigated the globe twice driving up I-5 to the Napa Valley and back.

“It’s an 800-mile round trip and there’s always a couple hundred miles driving to wineries, so it’s a thousand miles a trip and I’ve been coming up for 45 years. Just do the math,” Fishman said. Besides, he added, “that’s what you do when you drive up the I-5.” The distance around the Earth at the equator is calculated at 24,900 miles.

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St. Helena Star Editor

David Stoneberg is the editor of the St. Helena Star, an award-winning weekly newspaper. Prior to joining the Star in 2006, he worked for the Lake County Record-Bee, the Clear Lake Observer American, the Middletown Times Star, The Weekly Calistogan and st