Fox Chapel photographer turns her hobby into career

Tawnya Panizzi
| Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, 3:03 p.m.

While most people look, Ruthanne Bauerle sees.

That's been her key to carving a second career in photography, a hobby that transformed into a passion and now drives the Fox Chapel woman to seek “the extraordinary in the ordinary.”

“One of my favorite things to do is put my water shoes on and walk the Squaw Run Creek,” said Bauerle, 60, who prefers photos of nature and distressed objects. “I start at the beginning of the Trillium Trail and I go until you can't go anymore.”

She is not alone in her affection for the site along Fox Chapel Road.

Five Bauerle photos were chosen for installation in the Wean Family Group Study Room at Cooper-Siegel Library in Fox Chapel. In the small room reserved for mentoring or meditation, patrons can get a glimpse of nature through Bauerle's eyes.

Her photos of Squaw Run Creek hang in wooden frames above a table and chairs in an otherwise sparse room. Each picture showcases one detail, from a pile of shale to a bright red leaf lying on the water, in order to immerse patrons in the park's full beauty, she said.

“These are the things that people probably don't even notice when they're walking along the trails,” she said.

The largest of the five is an overview of the stream that shows rays of sunshine streaming through trees above the water. In a fun twist, Bauerle used an impressionistic filter so the print resembles a Monet painting.

“It's just a technique to make it different,” she said. “Everyone might photograph this spot but this leaves it looking differently.”

Britton Wean, whose family dedicated the study room, said she was impressed with the new library but felt their room was too bare.

“We wanted to create a focal point for those using it and it was important to us to showcase a local artist,” she said. “We chose (Bauerle's) because they bend our interest in art, photography and the Fox Chapel environment.

“It's the perfect place to display these beautiful prints.”

The honor is not the first for Bauerle, who has two black and white series in the Fox Chapel borough building. A member of the Pittsburgh Society of Artists, Bauerle has shown her pieces at the Three Rivers Arts Festival and at private galleries in Sewickley, as well as smaller shows like the Boyd Garden Fest.

It's the local shows that tickle Bauerle.

“I grew up in Fox Chapel and have been photographing these parks all my life so it's wonderful that people recognize them and like it,” she said.

The Fox Chapel Area alum earned an MBA in Finance from the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh. Having tinkered with her dad's cameras since childhood, she didn't find it a compelling hobby until the early 1980s.

“Back then we used film and the first time you walk into that dark room, it's like you wake up,” she said. “You put that paper in the chemicals and it comes alive.”

Nearly two decades passed before her husband asked Bauerle what she was waiting for. He encouraged her to turn her art into a profession.

Her career began that year, 1998, with her first showing at Boyd Community Center. The owner of Fox Chapel Images LLC has set her sights on broader subjects these days. She hopes to create a series of photos to tell the story of each municipality in Allegheny County.

In doing that, she hopes to fulfill another quirky hobby that is “finding women in trees.”

Bauerle has documented several images that friends and family point out to her, including “Lady,” in a huge tree truck along Hunt Road in Fox Chapel and “Nipple Root,” in a series of tangled roots along Squaw Run Road East in Fox Chapel.

Up next she aims to shoot an Orange Osage along Catalpa Ride Road in Fox Chapel and a 250-year-old Silver Maple along Middle Road in Indiana Township.

“I'm interested in finding these female outlines in nature,” she said. “You have to keep your eyes open but you'd be surprised at how many you come across.”

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