With a masterful eye for light and composition, Ray Atkeson spent more than 60 years documenting Oregon and the Pacific Northwest in stunning photography. Now his vast legacy of more than 250,000 photos is part of the UO Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives.
Rick Schafer, the photographer’s stepson and protégé, maintained the archive for nearly three decades before donating it to the university. More than simply “boxes of film,” Schafer says, the work is the archive of a great artist and cultural ambassador for Oregon and the West.
The New York Times called Atkeson, an Illinois native, “the dean of Northwest nature photography.” He was also dubbed “the finest ski photographer ever.” He was honored as a Distinguished Citizen of Oregon in 1977 and was the state’s photographer laureate from 1987 to 1990. At his passing in 1990, this favorite son of Oregon was recognized with the lowering of state flags to half-mast.
Atkeson’s greatest joy, according to his wife, Doris Schafer, “was sharing the beauty of these places with people who couldn’t go there.”
—Jason Stone, University Communications
Photos courtesy of Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, and Rick Schafer