Robert Schellhammer is a local photographer and musician living in Westminster. Schellhammer went to high school in New Jersey. He joined the yearbook staff to get out of class and to learn to use the cameras. He and his friend took the photographs with a 4x5-inch press camera. It is a large camera with a bellows. Schellhammer and his friend were artistically oriented.
“We were the geeks of our time,” he remembered.
Photography was eclipsed by folk guitar until Schellhammer’s senior year at Rutgers University, where he earned a B.A. in English. After graduation, he realized he did not want to follow his original plan to go into advertising. Instead, Schellhammer apprenticed with a well-known portrait and commercial photographer where he learned his film photography skills.
During that time, he met Walt Michael, now the Artist in Residence at McDaniel College and the founder and executive director of Common Ground on the Hill (commongroundonthehill.org). Schellhammer had been interested in music since he learned to play the guitar in college. Later, Michael would influence his life.
Schellhammer had a series of several jobs but eventually he got a job as a photographer with one of the Johnson & Johnson companies. Schellhammer spent 13 years at that firm.
After leaving Johnson & Johnson, he and his family moved to Martha’s Vineyard where he did freelance photography. Schellhammer photographed architecture and food for a Martha’s Vineyard magazine. He also did photo journalism for the MV Times. “It was hard to live there full time without two jobs because it was so expensive,” he recalled.
“There was a strong artist colony at the island. Artists, writers and photographers live there. It was also a center of black culture attracting ... writer and poet Dorothy West,” he said. “It was nice to be able to walk the beach after my day job.”
As a photographer, he enjoyed the cloud formations and seascapes. As the island became more crowded with vacationers, it became less of an artist colony because of the high cost of living.
When his oldest son graduated from college in 2000, Schellhammer and his son took a six-week back packing trip to Asia. Schellhammer took a series of memorable photographs while he was there. “It was a great time to bond with my son as adults,” he said.
The trip led him to a love of travel. Schellhammer also went to Japan because his oldest son was teaching English there for a year. Later, he went to Germany for fun with his younger son. When his oldest son pursued his master’s degree at Cambridge University in England, Schellhammer took the opportunity to visit. While on these trips, he took many photographs.
Schellhammer likes to take photographs of everything, including people. He enjoys capturing the spirit of a place. The interaction of people and places are important to him.
After taking a tour of the South, Schellhammer and his wife decided to move to Chattanooga. When they stopped there and they fell in love with it. While living in Tennessee, Schellhammer did photography for architects and renovators. He took photographs of their completed work. He also did photography for realtors, since attractive photographs sell houses. It was hard to find work there, so he and his wife Jennifer decided to take a year off and do volunteer work in Appalachia in South Eastern Kentucky. The move morphed into five years.
In trying to be part of the culture there, Schellhammer purchased a mountain dulcimer and learned to play it. He played it for the seniors he was working with in Kentucky.
Consequently, the Schellhammers ran out of money and had to get back in to the workforce. Schellhammer was on the computer looking for cool places to live, when he got a phone call from his friend Walt Michael inviting them to visit him in Westminster for the Memorial Day weekend.
Schellhammer and his wife liked Westminster so much, they moved to Westminster.