While growing up in Sarasota, Florida, Robert Fichter was intrigued by the landscape of sculptural ruins that remained on Long Boat Key from John Ringling's pre-Depression era attempt to re-create the Italian Renaissance. Surveying the deterioration of civilization has since become a leitmotif of Fichter's art. His interest in photography began in high school, where he was a yearbook editor. But he was well on his way to completing the requirements for a degree in anthropology at the University of Florida, Gainesville (B.F.A. 1963), when he decided to switch to the fine arts, studying painting, printmaking and photography. During his undergraduate years Fichter's political and social consciousness was revealed in the iconoclastic student literary magazine, Scope, that he helped to found.
After graduation from Gainesville, Fichter took the advice of photographer Jerry Uelsmann, his professor and mentor, and enrolled at Indiana University, Bloomington (M.F.A. 1966), studying with Henry Holmes Smith. Both Uelsmann and Smith played central roles in Fichter's development as a photographer. Through Uelsmann, Fichter also met Nathan Lyons, who hired him as assistant curator of exhibitions at George Eastman House, Rochester, New York (1966-1968). Having access to the museum's rich troves on the history of photography and its ambitious exhibition program, designed to reveal the expressive possibilities of the medium, Fichter found fertile ground for his photographic explorations.
In 1968 Fichter moved to Los Angeles, taking a teaching position at UCLA, where he was an assistant professor for two years. He moved back to Florida in 1971, joining the faculty of Florida State University, where he is currently a professor in the art department. Fichter returned to UCLA once during the 1970s, as a visiting associate professor of art (1976). He was also visiting artist at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1977.
In addition to his work at Graphicstudio, Fichter has produced etchings, lithographs, and photographs at the Visual Arts Research Institute, Arizona State University, Tempe (1984), and lithographs at the Tamarind Institute, Albuquerque (1987). He has also produced two artist's books featuring computer-generated imagery: After Eden, published by the U.S.F. Art Galleries (1984); and A-X Cavation (text by James Hugunin), published by University of Colorado, department of fine arts (1988).
Fichter's first one-man exhibition was held at the George Eastman House in 1968. Other important exhibitions of his work have been shown at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1974), Los Angeles Center for Photographic Studies (1981), U.S.F. Art Galleries (1984), Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina (1986), and the Gallery of Art, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls (1990). In 1982 a major retrospective of his work was organized by the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester and travelled to the Fine Arts Gallery, Florida State University, Tallahassee; Frederick White Gallery, UCLA; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College, Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Art Museum, University of New Mexico; and the Brooklyn Museum. (Fine/Corlett 1991, 161)