One of the state's best photographers dies

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Posted by on October 13, 2008 at 13:21:01:

Photographer Rashid dies: 'He always had a smile'

Photographer Bob Rashid, best known for his book "Wisconsin's Rustic Roads," died suddenly Thursday when his aorta was torn. He was 59.

"He always had a smile and a lightness of being that was just profound," said Holly Cohn, Rashid's wife of three years, but partner of 21 years.

"He was home to me. I'm devastated. I've lost my best friend and I've lost the person who allowed me to be myself without judgments."

The two met as roommates after a friend in common told her that he didn't know anybody who didn't like Rashid. "And actually that's kind of been true all along," Cohn said.

A freelance photographer, Rashid had done four books and was finishing a book with the state Department of Natural Resources called "People of the Sturgeon." He was also in the middle of writing a novel, his wife said.

Rashid did a lot of work for University of Wisconsin publications, and recently for the UW's School of Nursing. He was one of the photographers at Deer Park near Oregon whenever the Dalai Lama came to visit and he also took photographs on medical missions, going to Kazakhstan twice in 10 years.

Rashid, a Ripon native, was also a musician, playing drums in the band Dollar Bill and the Bucks. He was recently getting into jazz and last week jammed with a jazz band at the Hilton, Cohn said.

In a column in The Capital Times in March 2000, after the publication of Rashid's well-received book, "Gone Fishing," Doug Moe called him one of the state's best photographers.

Moe wrote about how Rashid treated himself to three weeks in France a few months earlier to celebrate turning 50. "I kind of like getting older," Rashid said. "I still have a lot of energy and I like what I'm doing."

Rashid had gone to Eye Level Framing Thursday to frame a large project he did for a permanent exhibit at the UW nursing school, his wife said. He went next door to Tex Tubb's Taco Palace for lunch.

"So he was eating a burrito and collapsed and died because his aorta that feeds the blood to the brain had a split and it shut down and cut the blood off to his brain. I think he probably died in an instant," Cohn said.

Soon after, she and members of Rashid's family ate at Tex Tubb's -- the Atwood Avenue location -- in memory of Rashid. "Bob was a true-blue east-sider," Cohn said.

Cohn doesn't eat meat and said Rashid was following suit. So they ordered the daikon radish and avocado burrito because they wanted to eat what he had eaten. But they later learned from a waitress that Rashid had ordered a ground beef burrito.

"And we laughed because he had kind of given up meat. So he was eating something he really liked and that made us happy," Cohn said.

Older sister Susan Rashid Horn said she and Rashid grew up in the turbulent 1960s as middle children. "We could tell each other our deepest secrets and at the end of telling such raw things to each other, we could still say, 'You're the best one.' And we always said to each other, 'No, you're the best one.' He was the brother of my heart."

The coroner said Rashid had a very rare condition, "that he had a rare heart," Horn said. "And I know he meant it literally, but I can take it metaphorically: He had a rare heart. He was so dear, so sweet."

Fellow photographer Glenn Trudel, one of Rashid's closest friends, said he will miss Rashid's sense of humor, his kindness and his generosity. "He was also a great listener, coming from someone who loves to talk. He was a great friend and a terrific human being."

Trudel met Rashid in 1976 at the Daily Cardinal. Rashid became the chief photographer for the Madison Press Connection, a strike paper formed by employees of The Capital Times and the Wisconsin State Journal when they went on strike in 1977.

"That's really how I began my career. I really owe my career to Bob," Trudel said.

Chuck France, a videographer and editor for Wisconsin Public Television, met Rashid when he went to film a documentary about the Press Connection called "Between the Lines."

It was the first of a number of collaborations. France said that for "Wisconsin's Rustic Roads," Rashid put in 15,000 miles traveling all of the roads in the system at that time, about 1993.

The coffee table book featured the writing of Ben Logan, George Vukelich, Jean Feraca, Norbert Blei and Bill Stokes. "He arranged for them to write about different parts of the state," said France, who turned the book into a documentary. "One of the greatest things for me was to go on the road with Bob. He would show me some of the best roads to go to. We would set up our tripods and shoot all day."

Rashid really opened his eyes to shooting in the "golden hour," he said. "We would get up at 4 or 5 in the morning. He was just a consummate artist as far as doing everything he could to get the best shot, to get the best light. I learned a lot from him by going on the road with him and shooting."

Local photographer John Urban used to share studio space with Rashid. "I know it sounds corny, but it truly applies here (He's) one of the nicest people I've ever met. Not a mean bone in his body, and he had this charming smile that was always present and made you feel like everything was gonna be OK."

Author Harriet Brown, former editor of Wisconsin Trails magazine, called Rashid "a true gentleman in the best sense of the word."

"Meaning that he was gentle, yes, but also funny, smart, and a good friend to those he loved. It's truly a loss for the community as a whole as well as his close friends."

A celebration of Rashid's life will take place 3-6 p.m. Saturday at the Goodman Atwood Community Center, 149 Waubesa St.

(Samara Kalk Derby, The Capital Times)

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