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Bonnie Schupp, teacher and arts photographer, dies

At age 60, Bonnie Schupp received a doctorate in communications design.
At age 60, Bonnie Schupp received a doctorate in communications design. (Family photo / HANDOUT)

Bonnie Jean Schupp, a photographer, writer and retired middle school language arts teacher, died of pancreatic cancer Thursday at her home in Pasadena. She was 76.

Born in Norfolk, Virginia, she was the daughter of Alvin Schupp, a Mercantile Bank trust officer, and his wife, Virginia, a homemaker. Raised on Lyndale Avenue near Clifton Park, she was a 1963 Eastern High School graduate and had a lifelong interest in photography.

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She was briefly a teller at the old Progress Federal Savings and Loan and earned her undergraduate degree at Frostburg State University.

A 2020 Capital Gazette article related that while in college, she knew no one and broke a few rules “to become the person she is now.”

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“Her parents signed a paper saying she wasn’t allowed to go into town or spend the night outside of Frostburg’s campus. But she did, and she got to know the world and herself a lot better,” the article said.

She married A. Scott Caples, an engineer. They later divorced.

She taught language arts for seven years at Benjamin Franklin Junior High in Brooklyn.

She went on to open Monaco’s Camera Shop with business partner Barry Monaco in Severna Park. She established friendships with her customers. Some were surprised the shop was run by a woman, a woman who knew her way around film jams, shutter malfunctions, lenses and photo techniques.

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She also won a prize of $4,000 in the Kodak International Snapshop Awards with a picture submitted through the local newspaper sponsor, the old Baltimore News American.

In 1968 she met her future second husband, David M. Ettlin, a Baltimore Sun staff member, while they both lived in apartments in a Calvert Street rowhouse in Charles Village.

With his press pass, Mr. Ettlin offered to drive her around in his convertible to take pictures of National Guard soldiers patrolling the city amid the rioting that followed the Martin Luther King assassination and uprising.

“It became a 42-year partnership, including what I called a ‘bring-your-own-shotgun wedding’ in February 1980 as our respective divorces were completed,” he said. “My daughter Lauren was born six weeks later.”

Ms. Schupp arranged to photograph the delivery of her daughter at Sinai Hospital.

In a Baltimore Sun article, Ms. Schupp said of her delivery, “To those who argue about the messiness of birth and lack of aesthetics, I say there is nothing more beautiful to a mother than her child just born from her womb. Besides, aesthetics was not my goal but, rather, documentation.”

The photo later won an honorable mention in the Women In Photography International competition.

She and her husband collaborated on feature, travel and circus stories for The Sun, where she also freelanced as an independent photographer. Her photos also appeared in the Baltimore Business Journal.

She sold her interest in the camera shop to her employees and began a six-year run writing the weekly “Camera Bag” column for The Evening Sun. The column also appeared in South Bend, Indiana, and Prescott, Arizona, newspapers.

When the column was discontinued, Ms. Schupp returned to the classroom as a teacher in Anne Arundel County for two years at Annapolis Middle School and 13 more at George Fox Middle in Pasadena. She then became its resource teacher and arranged cultural enrichment activities.

Ms. Schupp, who had a Japanese pen pal in childhood, was selected by the Fulbright Memorial Teachers Fund to travel for three weeks in Japan. She met teachers and learned about the school system.

She and her husband were also members of Servas, an international peace organization, and hosted its traveling members.

Ms. Schupp earned a master’s degree at the Johns Hopkins University. About 16 years ago, at age 60, she received a doctorate in communications design from the University of Baltimore.

“She took her experiences from teaching and did original research on bullying in schools for her dissertation,” said Dorine Andrews, a friend and writer.

Ms. Andrews also said, “Bonnie was fearless. She dressed to express herself and she didn’t care what people thought of it. She was lucky. She was born with an artistic gene. She could follow through and make things happen. It made her a very complete person.”

She exhibited and sold her photography at the Creative Alliance Big Show and Maryland Art Place Out of Order event. One of her oversized prints hangs in the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center administration building.

She also sold images from an online portfolio of some 2,000 pictures at iStock/Getty Images. Her photos were also displayed on the rooftop digital arts billboard at Charles and Lanvale streets.

Ms. Schupp self-published half a dozen books, including “365 Gifts,” a compilation of a year of photo-illustrated blog postings about a gift that each day brought.

For day 301, she wrote, “Faith is our human condition. ... I drive my car with faith that the truck in the westbound lane will remain there and I walk down the street believing that the person walking toward me will respond to my hello with a nod and a smile.”

A celebration of her life will be held once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

In addition to her husband, a retired Baltimore Sun night metro editor, survivors include two daughters, Lauren M. Graham of Ocean Pines and FL Ettlin of Bowie; two sisters, Nancy Ayers of Jarrettsville and Jaymie Watts of Jacksonville, Baltimore County; and a cousin, Sandra Schupp of Rosedale.

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