Photographers Put in Blood, Sweat and Tears - Wacker Chemie AG


Photographers Put in Blood, Sweat and Tears

“What do you actually do all day?” is a question heard again and again by Georg Willmerdinger, Steffen Wirtgen and Achim Zeller. And sometimes the answer is already provided for the three WACKER photographers: “Take a few snaps, upload them and click send – you’ve got it pretty good.” But whoever seriously believes that these three have an easy, stress-free working life is seriously mistaken.

The WACKER photographers took most of the photos for the anniversary portrait series, “We are WACKER”, and also edited all the international pictures for this series. Here is a photo of them for a change, taken using the camera’s self-timer: (from the left) Steffen Wirtgen, Achim Zeller and Georg Willmerdinger.

The three site photographers take thousands of photographs each year. These include passport photos for visas and the Intranet, photos for product brochures, for the Annual and Sustainability Reports, for internal documents, for presentations, for the employee newspaper and so on and so forth. All three have been behind the lens for the “We Are WACKER photos” used in the series of anniversary portraits.

“The real work begins after we have taken the photographs,” says Achim Zeller. The basement room at the Burghausen site where the 44-year-old works used to be a darkroom. Today it’s home to computers and a calibrated screen used to select and edit different images. “For many a photo shoot this finishing process is more complex and extensive than taking the photos in the first place,” adds Steffen Wirtgen, 47, who has access to a professionally equipped photo studio at WACKER’s Munich headquarters. It’s often the case that he needs an entire working day for a particularly challenging subject, such as a WACKER product.

Normally he has to be a lot faster than that, however. For the Bavarian 2014 “Young Scientists” competition for instance, the photographers had exactly three minutes per contestant. “We took shots of each participant in advance so that later we would have a photo of the winner ready to hand,” says Georg Willmerdinger, 47. Things get even tougher for the photographers when there are important events. “Then we go in with our pulses racing and think to ourselves: hopefully we will press the button at precisely the crucial moment that captures the situation perfectly,” say the photographers.

On the one hand digital photography has made it possible to take far more photos in a short space of time compared to previously, when film, development and contact sheets all meant spending time and money. But now all that effort goes into managing today’s mass of data and images: The photographers have to review every image, decide whether to keep or delete it, create collections, obtain approvals from different departments, reprocess images as well as record the image data so that the pictures can then be archived in the image database to be called up quickly on demand. There is also an increasing focus on the topic of long-term archiving. “At the moment our folder contains around 19,000 images,” says Steffen Wirtgen, “the entire database contains just over 30,000 pictures.” But that doesn’t take into account the images that were previously saved onto a WACKER server drive...

Each of the three WACKER photographers have produced photos which cost a great deal of blood, sweat and tears. For Steffen Wirtgen it’s the cover photo of an Annual Report or product shots which he managed to capture with a great deal of organization and the support of his Burghausen colleagues from a height of three meters in the hall of the site’s staff building. For Achim Zeller it’s the photos taken in unusual places – like those of the ETONIS® product application in pressure tunnels at a hydroelectric power plant in the Alps or pictures taken from a dizzy height at the top of a crane lift dangling above the site. For Georg Willmerdinger it’s the photo he took for an anniversary portrait on March 13, 2014: “More than Just a Kite.” As with every portrait photo, Willmerdinger wanted to capture elements of the text within his photo. In this case it was a kite. Günther Reithmeier, head of Technical Engineering at the Burghausen site really enjoyed himself at the shoot – and Georg Willmerdinger had an original photo in the bag.

Another important project for the WACKER photographers was the chronicle marking 100 years of WACKER. In this instance they were charged with the task of editing the photos. “In the archive room we have access to old glass negatives that date back as far as 1914,” says Achim Zeller, “there are some real treasures in there” – including historical records of the site or a portrait of the company founder Alexander Wacker.