King of Aspen’s postcard business passes away
October 30, 2017
A lot of Aspen tourists went home happy for more than 50 years thanks to the work of photographer Robert "Bob" Bishop.
Bishop was a postcard publisher who worked in several Colorado resort towns, but made Aspen his bread-and-butter market. He passed away last month in Grand Junction at age 96, according to his daughter Laura Bishop.
Bishop started making and selling postcards in the late 1950s. He moved his family from Denver to Grand Junction in 1969 so he could be closer to the resort towns, Laura said.
He had a knack for using his patience and knowledge to be in the right place at the right time — capturing the right light and getting the right angle for his shots.
“He really had a passion for photography. That kept him going.” Laura Bishop
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"He would watch the weather and get to Aspen before the snowstorms struck," Laura said.
No matter how many pictures visitors took, many of them inevitably purchased Bishop's postcards because he always got the better shot. He did a masterful job of capturing iconic images of Aspen that visitors would send to friends to showcase their trip or take home as keepsakes.
Bishop remained at the helm of his business into the mid-2000s.
"He really had a passion for photography. That kept him going," Laura said.
His postcards remain available through Robert C. Bishop Photography LLC at Carl's Pharmacy, Sandy's Office Supply and the Mountain Chalet.
In a documentary made about Bishop and his work before his death, "Wish You Were Here, the Extraordinary Postcards of the American West by Robert C. Bishop," he said capturing images that included water and the color red were sure to produce successful postcards. Little wonder, then, that he sold so many shots of the Maroon Bells.
"I don't think he ever got sick of the Maroon Bells," Laura said.
In the documentary, which Aspen filmmaker Greg Poschman assisted in, Bishop told the story of how he couldn't get the Aspen Skiing Corp. to give him a press pass for the 1983 World Cup ski races in Aspen. Bishop got up the hill on his own and was in perfect position to capture the image of a racer from Japan sailing through the air, wrapped in a gate from the racecourse. The shot won best action photo of the year from POWDER Magazine.
Bishop also disclosed in the documentary that he always tried to get good shots of the main intersections of the Colorado resort towns. Those were the perspectives that would capture the attention of tourists because it was familiar to them.
Jerry Hennen, a friend of Bishop's for more than 55 years, said Bishop took a liking to the mountains of Colorado as a youngster even though he was an Iowa boy. His love of the outdoors led to an interest in photography.
"What made his photography successful was just hard work," Hennen said. "He wouldn't call it hard work. He liked doing it."
Bishop served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and took art, design and architecture classes at Stanford University in 1950-51. He took workshops led by famed photographers Ansel Adams and Minor White. That led to an assignment to photograph a prestigious photography conference organized by Ferenc Berko in Aspen in 1951 at the Hotel Jerome. Bishop was inspired to move to Colorado and start his postcard business later that decade.
Hennen said Bishop was a lot of fun to be around. He was a friend with Adams and the two enjoyed "horsing around."
"He was fun. His work looked all serious but he liked to have a good time," Hennen said of Bishop.
Laura said her dad made a lot of friends in Aspen over the years. Aspen Times columnist Tim Willoughby wrote about Bishop in June 2009 and said Aspen became his flagship location for his postcard business. Laura concurred.
"He had more sales of postcards in Aspen than Steamboat or Vail," she said.
His wife, Norma, preceded Bob in death in 2016. A memorial service was held earlier in October in Grand Junction. Memorial contributions can be made to the Alzheimer's Association, 2232 N. Seventh St., Grand Junction, CO 81501 or Western Colorado Center for the Arts, 1803 N. Seventh St., Grand Junction, CO 81501. Reference Robert Bishop with donations.