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Remembering Bob Rashid
The photographer explored Wisconsin's Rustic Roads
Bob Rashid
Bob Rashid
Credit:Brent Nicastro

Respected Madison photographer Bob Rashid died last Thursday, October 9. In 1994, Isthmus contributor George Vukelich devoted one of his "Listening In" columns to Rashid on the occasion of his "Rustic Roads of Wisconsin" photo exhibition at Olbrich Gardens.

Crediting his wife, the artist Holly Cohn, for helping him to view and compose subjects with a painter's eye, Rashid provides insight into the challenges and rewards of untertaking such an ambitious project, explains his preference for morning light and notes the beauty awaiting those who follow back roads instead of major highways.

To mark Rashid's life, we republish his reflections as documented by Vukelich:

Listening In: March 18, 1994

On the Road: Bob Rashid trails rustic Wisconsin

By George Vukelich

Bob Rashid is a professional photographer whose work has appeared in Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, Travel Holiday, Milwaukee Magazine and the Wisconsin State Journal, and he's an ongoing contributor to in-flight magazines. He has been on assignment to Nicaragua and the Ukraine, photographing the work of American medical teams. Rashid's current show -- "Rustic Roads of Wisconsin" -- opened last month at Olbrich Gardens and continues to April 3, after which it goes on the road. Rashid, 44, graduated from UW-Madison with a degree in philosophy. He is married to Holly, an artist, who taught him to look at photographic subjects with "a painter's eye." Lost River Press of Woodruff will publish a coffee-table book of Rashid's Rustic Roads photographs in the spring of 1995.

"The person who really taught me photography was Bruce Fritz, but Holly has been influencing me. I always thought photography was 'the great art,' but now I look at painters, and I think they have a broader vision.

"There are 29 photographs in the show, and one is particularly influenced by this. I call it 'Holly's Favorite Spot.' It's up in Jackson County. There's a pine forest in the background, some undergrowth in the foreground, a few little fallen branches.

"When I came across this spot, my first thought was, This is exactly like one of Holly's paintings!

"I'm not surprised that no photographer has done this before, traveling all of Wisconsin's Rustic Roads. It's such a time-consuming commitment. It took me a year, and I wouldn't want to spend any less on it.

"There are 67 Rustic Roads in the state now, and the Department of Transportation is adding new ones every year. The roads, nominated for inclusion as Rustic Roads by local residents and local units of government, must be accepted by the Rustic Roads board.

"The roads are generally short. I think four miles is about the average. The longest one is 26 miles, that's up in Marinette County. You can get a booklet from DOT titled 'Wisconsin's Rustic Roads,' which lists all the roads by number.

"My favorite is Number 50 in the DOT booklet. It goes past Star Lake, Plum Lake, up in the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest. That's the 'old Wisconsin' that Glenn Yarbrough knew. To me, it's just an incredible road.

"I'm pulled towards rural scenes, and I drive the back roads a lot. (I 'shunpike.') I try to avoid the main highways if I can. I'm on the road quite a bit with my work, so this was the perfect project for me.

"Even before this project, I had thought: What would be the ideal job for me? The answer I came up with was driving around Wisconsin, photographing the landscapes.

"The project took a full year because I wanted to photograph in all four seasons, under different weather conditions, different light, stuff like that.

"I like to shoot early in the morning, and when you're out there with the sun just coming up, with the light absolutely beautiful and there's nobody else around -- that's just an incredible feeling.

"You know, people go all over the world to find this kind of beauty, and the beauty is right here, in Wisconsin! You just need to kind of get off the interstate to find it.

"On the technical side, I shot hundreds of rolls of 35mm -- thousands of frames -- it was all Fuji Velvia ASA 50. I used only Nikons. Holly helped me pick the photographs for the show. All my film for the show was processed by Steve Agard over at Hyperion Studios. Steve also did the Cibachrome printing, and Linda Pearson did the framing for the prints.

"I never knew what I was going to shoot. I'd just drive, see something I really liked, and then stop the car."

Family, friends and admirers will gather to celebrate Rashid's life from 3-6 p.m. on Saturday, October 18 at the new Goodman Community Center on 149 Waubesa St.

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