I wanted to take a moment and share something personal.
I recently learned my friend and mentor in photography Patti Bose has passed away from cancer. I learned of the news from a Facebook post right before Thanksgiving. I’ve spent the last few days processing everything and digging through old photographs. I wanted to say goodbye to Patti by sharing some memories.
Patti was a part of my earlier life when I lived in Orlando, Florida. With a 12 year difference in age, I looked up to her as a idol and a mentor. It’s been more than 20 years since we spent time together. I still remember her beautiful smile, amazing spirit, and joyful laugh. She was a huge influence in my life both personally and creatively.
In my 20’s I wanted to be like her, I wanted to dress like her and I loved the free spirited lifestyle she lived. She had a special connection to spirit, to animals and to culture. She really was someone truly special.
When I was twenty-one, after being homesick from leaving my family in Ocala, Florida to Atlanta, I moved to Orlando so I could be closer. I began my search for work as a photography assistant in the area hoping to land something steady with a well established photographer. I picked pros who were listed in “The Workbook,” a professional collection of the top commercial photographers available for photo assignments around the country. These were high-end professionals working on large advertising accounts. I knew if I could get work with any of these photographers it would boost my knowledge and help me grow to the level of photography I wanted to do professionally. After carefully handpicking the ones in Orlando I wanted to work with, I narrowed my list to the ones I admired the most based on their work. Patti Bose was the first because she was the only commercial woman photographer in town and her work was very unique.
My initial interview with Patti was in her small commercial photo studio in Winter Park, Florida. I remember the light gleaming through the small front windows and the bright beautiful red flowing fabric that hung along the ceiling overhead. Her space was so different from any of the other studios I had visited. Her personality was embedded in the space, the colors and the furniture. She was a beautiful well dressed blonde who laughed a lot and I was inspired the second she walked into the room. She had a calmness to her and I instantly felt connected. That afternoon we talked for an hour about her work but she seemed equally curious in me and why I had picked commercial photography. In the late 80’s the industry was primarily male driven and she seemed excited to know I was interested. She shared stories about herself and her photography friends, showed me some of her work, and gave me a tour of her space.
Patti didn’t need a full time assistant but she was able to offer some insight to the other choices I had picked on my short list. John Petrey (now sculptor) was a food photographer shooting for Darden, which covered Red Lobster, Olive Garden and several other restaurants at that time. He had a steady team of assistants, but he did allow me to show my book and gave some great advice for my career path. Wiley & Flynn was a top runner due to the fact they were two very diverse photographers within the same company, Robert Wiley and Rusty Flynn. They ended up being the perfect fit and I worked with them for the 10 years that followed. I learned so much about the industry, business, and studio management and they helped shape me into the photographer I am today. Patti was connected with everyone and we all became great industry friends.
Over the years my friendship grew with Patti. When I had a chance to join the yearly ASMP conference at 23 years old in Aspen, I was ecstatic. Patti and I flew into Denver, rented an SUV and drove up to Aspen stopping in small towns along the way shooting photos and exploring.
At the conference our rooms were next to each other and we were two of only a handful of women there hanging out with more than 30 men. I was the youngest at the time and she took me under her wing almost like a sister. The yearly event hosted top photographers who volunteered to run organization chapters around the US to discuss industry concerns, copyright, products, and technology within the industry. On our drive back we stayed with some of her friends for a few days of snow skiing in Vail. Being able to hang with Patti, her friends, the other photographers and the film and camera reps proved to be one of my most memorable young career memories.
Over the years, Patti and I grew a wonderful friendship despite our age difference. We co-taught an ASMP business night course at the Southeast Center for Photographic Studies, the college we both had graduated from with photo degrees. Often, she would invite me to help with some of her personal photography projects. This was back in the days of film where every click of the shutter cost money. She had this unique style of blurring images, purposely shooting at slow shutter speeds in low light and pushing or pulling the film in the developing. This technique allowed her imagery to appear in motion yet timeless. The colors were often muted and carried a strange sense of enigma. She constantly experimented doing things other photographers would never do, pushing the limits of film and light to create a style of imagery that was truly her own.
My fondest series of Patti’s work included cherub’s on horses and ballet dancers flying through the air. Her art transformed a subject into a trail of motion surrounded by mystery. This was a time when photoshop was not an option, the technique had to be shot over and over hoping you would get one perfect frame and experimenting carried a high cost because she shot most of her work with large format cameras.
On visits to her beautiful home, we would sit by the fireplace sipping wine and share creative ideas. For a while she was working with Polaroid in New York using their infamous 20 x 24 camera in correlation with shooting images of ballet dancers with the New York Ballet. At that time, she mastered her own technique of polaroid transfers onto glass in her back yard with the help of our close friend and assistant Marci Snyder. I spent time with them on several hot Florida afternoons helping with the painstaking process, fascinated with every piece of art that came to life. I was always interested in alternative fine art techniques and that was a huge connection with Patti. I was a young starving artist at the time with little money to experiment so I loved having the opportunity to be involved with her and her work.
Her one of a kind and expensive 20 x 24 polaroids of ballet dancers would be placed in a large tray of heated water with constant agitation. Slowly the emulsion would lift from the paper and once it was loosened enough to move Patti would carefully transfer by hand the very fragile thin lawyer onto glass. She would meticulously arrange the wet thin image layer onto the glass as flat as possible so it didn’t overlap but without tearing the emulsion. The result was a beautiful transparent photo image just as fragile as the glass it was placed onto. We would stay after dark and talk for hours about creative ideas as her young son Rajah played on the floor in front of the fireplace. I remember Patti having a very difficult pregnancy but Rajah was born healthy and adorable. He would run through the house with his charming smile and dark messy locks of hair, excited to share his toys with her guest. Patti cherished the gift of motherhood and I am sure Rajah helped with her being alone while her husband was traveling.
Patti’s husband Oru Bose was an architect and was gone a lot working on projects in the US and in India. I loved going through her travel photos and I remember Patti telling me the stories of her visits there, how the kids would touch her blonde hair and white skin because she looked so different. Her photographs made me want to travel out of the country, something I didn’t do until I was 32 years old.
Patti and her husband Oru decided to move to Santa Fe in the 90’s and I spent time at her home before she left helping her pack some of her art. She gave me a bunch of backdrops, some old gear and what is still my favorite chair that I sit and eat dinner alone in every evening.
She also gave me two of her ballerina 20 x 40 polaroids that I had forgotten I had, I dug them out today from a box of art (the other was the opening photo).
For many years we lost touch until she reconnected with me on Facebook. We had a few phone calls and I had always hoped to get out to Santa Fe to visit someday. I have been intrigued with New Mexico all my life, I loved studying about the culture, climate and indians of that part of the US when I was in college. I discovered the Santa Fe Workshops in a photo magazine at 17 years old and dreamed of saving up enough money to go someday. Patti would go on to teach workshops there as an instructor as well as hosting women portrait retreats.
I don’t know how long her online website will be up now that she is gone, but if you would like to see her legacy you can visit it here. I have been sad since the discovery of her passing before Thanksgiving. It was so strange that I went to her page one afternoon when she crossed my mind and realized she had passed within a day of my thinking of her. From what I could tell, it seemed she had been diagnosed with a rare debilitating cancer earlier this year. Her last post on October 10 was to thank those who had donated to a medical fund.
While I am saddened to hear of Patti’s passing I am reminded that life is short and we never know when our time here will end. It affirms that our lives are a journey of connections and we have the power to live the way we choose. Patti was a beautiful and creative artist who dared to create and share her ideas as she wanted. She was a gift to those who understood her art and she was easy to love through her glowing personality. I feel honored to have had the chance to have experienced time with her in my younger life. My heart goes out to her son Rajah and the rest of his family and I pray for their healing from their loss, she loved them all dearly. I will end with her own words pulled from her site because they are a perfect reflection of who I remember her to have been.
“I am fascinated by the diversity of our world. I truly love to meet all kinds of people and learn their customs of foods and music and dance. Who am I, What do I Want and How can I serve and touch others lives? How can I capture a true portrait of a beautiful being without knowing these things? I feel that everything is as it should be.
My life has been full of wonderful people and animals that have inspired me to take pictures, cook, dance, play music and live in harmony. I married into the Indian culture rich with color, sounds and smells that tantalize the senses. I have the good fortune to photo & illustrate my mother in law’s Indian folkloric fairy tales with my photography and hand. The stories are rich with history, customs and intrigue.
Combining all of these elements is who I am and how I shoot. I look forward to exploring your dreams and desires.”