Patricia Fortlage is an award-winning photographic long-form storyteller and fine art photographer. From her core belief that if you invest in women and girls, entire communities will be raised, Patricia has focused much of her documentary career working with organizations doing just that.
From her powerful piece covering the female-led Othakarhaka Foundation in Southern Malawi to the stereotype breaking, female empowering Wonder, girl! Project, to an ongoing project depicting the often life-long after-effects of sexual assault on women, Patricia has promoted female empowerment one project at a time. She’s documented conditions and shared stories of struggle and success, helped to promote tourism in the poorest of nations, and overall, devoted her artistic work to furthering community development.
She began her career by studying a degree in political science; however, she changed her focus to photography when she realized that change can also be affected through this medium. Her contributions in humanitarian aid and photography have taken her to over 50 countries, witnessing extreme poverty, unthinkable disease, violence, and destruction of life. She has also experienced beauty of spirit, resilience, optimism, and a human kindness that knows no boundaries or borders. This beauty has inspired her to relay those stories.
Patricia learned a lot during her work overseas. She learned that no matter where one lives, everyone is doing the very best that they can, and that most welcome support and ideas and collaborations where they can find them. She learned about the generosity of others, especially those in the medical profession, who give of their time and skills freely and fervently to save lives. She learned that her documentary skills as a photographer, while honed, paled in comparison to the real life-saving work performed by locals and foreigners united by shared visions. She is humbled to have partnered on this treasured work.
Patricia also learned that in addition to love, food, and health, art is sustenance. In so many cultures, art is revered… it is savored. Whether that art be music, paintings, weavings, sculpture, photography… the list goes on… art is contentment for the soul, it inspires change, it brings joy. This has led to an alchemy of her own work, transitioning more towards fine art photography in recent years.
To Patricia, fine art means seeing with imagination, creating her own artistic interpretations of the world around her. Her goal is to create art that moves people. Although Patricia’s work is highly realistic, it also evokes a quality that is both intense and dream-like. The reason? She wants the viewer to have an immediate emotional reaction to her images, as opposed to an intellectual reaction. Her hope is that instead of having an opinion or beginning to assess her work as art, they will instead have a heart moment, one that will move them and inspire them in how they themselves move in the world. While Patricia works within all color palettes, she prefers black and white. Simply put, there are times when she feels color is distracting… and the story itself is just too important for distractions.
Patricia also wants the viewer to feel like the scene envelopes them, that all of a sudden, the scene has become all around them. She tries to accomplish this with light and luminance. She pushes and pulls the scene to create the enveloping process. She hopes to sometimes educate and inspire with her art, sometimes shock and surprise, sometimes entertain, and hopefully often, bring joy. Her work has been published nationally and she has widely exhibited in solo and juried exhibits across the US.
Featured in the Pro Column of Issue 270 of Digital Photographer Magazine... September, 2023
Some fun at exhibitions...
(for a full list of exhibitions, go here)
My favorite is to be behind the camera, of course. That being said, sharing my work can be fun and exciting. I get to meet all sorts of people and make new friends.
This was a month-long solo show at yet another vibrant business in beautiful historic downtown Monrovia, CA that supports the arts! Girls get bombarded with messages about what is seemingly acceptable given their body types or shapes, or hair texture, gender, intelligence, aptitude for sports, music, etc. It is time for a new narrative. It is time that all girls feel empowered to be their authentic selves and to follow their passions. It is time that girls feel empowered to truly and openly wonder about all possibilities. This is the Wonder, girl! campaign.
This was a month-long solo show at a fun and vibrant business in beautiful historic downtown Monrovia, CA that supports the arts! Grey & Cash was generous enough to host my series titled, Not As It Seems." This fine art photographic series serves as a social commentary on our culture today. It is an opportunity for us to challenge our assumptions. What do you see? Are you sure? In a time when fake news has become an art form, how can we be so quick and so decisive in our conclusions when so much of what surrounds us is made up? None of these pieces is what it first seems, the end result rarely being a representation of materials used.