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Remembering Sharon Wohlmuth Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

2 March 2022

Sharon J. Wohlmuth, who won a Pulitzer Prize and countless other awards at The Philadelphia Inquirer and then co-published a best-selling series of books, died last month at her home on Rittenhouse Square. She was 75.

She was a veteran photographer at The Philadelphia Inquirer when she and Carol Saline, a senior writer for Philadelphia magazine, developed the concept of Wohlmuth's portraits of various sets of sisters accompanied by Saline's profiles of them.

The three dozen sets of sisters ranged from the well-known like Coretta Scott King, photographed with her sister, Edythe Scott Bagley, but also people like Bernetta and Margaret Crommarty, Philadelphia sisters in their 80s struggling with health problems.

After rejections from major publishers, the book was published by Running Press, a small company founded by Wohlmuth's husband Larry Teacher and his brother Buz.

In December 1994, the title made the nonfiction best-seller list of The New York Times, where it remained fo 63 weeks. That lead to a contract with Doubleday for two more books: Mothers & Daughters (1997) and Best Friends (1998). Both also made The Times's best-seller list.

"You have to be quiet," she described her approach on the tenth anniversary of Sisters publication. "And you know what happens? They become sisters, and it's that one moment -- Cartier-Bresson talks about the decisive moment. I want them to show me who they are as sisters."

Born in Bristol, Conn., she was popular in high school but not much interested in academics. A guidance counselor suggested she might make a fine housewife and mother. She did spend some time at a junior college after graduation but left after failing to master shorthand required for a job with a travel agency.

She met Ed Wohlmuth at a travel agents convention in Hartford and they married in 1966. His family owned a travel agency in Philadelphia, so they headed south where they lived together until they divorced in 1974. He died earlier.

Wohlmuth, whose father was an avid amateur photographer, enrolled at the Moore College of Art and Design in 1972 to study photography. She had compiled an impressive enough portfolio just a few months after she graduated that photo editor Gary Haynes offered her a job at The Inquirer.

In 1976, Wohlmuth became one of the celebrated self-described Photo Girls, four women who were the first female photographers at The Inquirer and Philadelphia Bulletin. Along with The Inquirer's Sara Krulwich and Vicki Valerio and the Bulletin's Barbara Pachter, Wohlmuth formed a group of trailblazers who remained friends and reunited often over the years.

"Sharon had great talent in capturing moments that most people never saw," Valerio said. "Her vision was so different and so cerebral. She was a genius at shooting people in ways they or you never expected."

She was part of The Inquirer team that won the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on the Three Mile Island nuclear accident. Her coverage of Holocaust survivors, Oklahoma cowboys, mobsters on trial, everyday life in Philadelphia, the wonders of nature and animals, and other subjects earned her adoring respect from readers and peers, in addition to awards from a half-dozen journalism organizations.

In 1991 she married Teacher, a publisher, painter and entrepreneur and they lived on Rittenhouse Square until his death in 2014.

In 1994 she was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She joked, "On my tombstone it will say, 'Wait, I'm not ready; I'm still organizing.'"

She taught photojournalism classes at Philadelphia College of Art, now the University of the Arts, and was known at The Inquirer for having one of the messiest desks in the building.

In addition to her brother Gary Joslow, she is survived by her sister Beth and other relatives.

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