The Darkroom

Remembering photographer Ruth Schaefer

Algerina Perna
The Baltimore Sun

When Debbie Russell pictures her mom, Ruth Schaefer, it’s with a camera in her hand. “She was just interested in taking pictures of all sorts of things, “ Russell says. Ruth Schaefer died September 19, 2018 at the age of 85. She left a legacy of winning photographs for family, friends, and Baltimore Sun readers. Since 2011, seventeen of her images placed first, and twenty-one placed second in the Sun’s “Reader’s SunShots” weekly photo contest. Russell, 58, says, “We would often get in the car and go on road trips to locations to take pictures for that particular week’s theme…”

So great was her enthusiasm for the contest that for the theme, “Yellow,” Schaefer googled, “yellow buildings,” Russell says. Her persistence paid off with a first place win. Even her moniker, “flashyschaefer,” referred to photography. “My mother was full of life, had such a spirit of fun…clever and intelligent… a bright light,” she says. Schaefer took photo classes at MICA in the 1970’s.

Schaefer’s son, Mark, 53, also a multiple SunShots winner says of his mother, “She pretty much taught me the basics. She had a darkroom and taught me how to develop negatives and print them.” The trio have taken pictures together of the Bald Eagles at the Conowingo Dam and other scenic places.

As judge of the SunShots contest for the past two years, I’ve had the privilege of seeing hundreds of wonderful photographs. Schaefer‘s images capture the beauty of people, nature and the man-made world in a unique and memorable way.

Wanting to lift up his mother’s spirits, Mark submitted one of her pictures in the “Pink” SunShots category this past July. Although she was battling Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Schaefer, adept at pithy titles, named the image, “Feeling in the Pink.” Mark says, “She was very happy when she learned she won.”

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