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"I could never get my paintings or drawings to look as real as I saw them in front of me. I’ve always been a perfectionist, and photography got me closer to depicting things as I saw them." / Image: Wally German // Published: 2.18.19

Rookwood Pottery's Lead Photographer Is a Hard-Working Perfectionist

When a photographer is truly great at what they do, people take notice. Increased accessibility has given the tools to create to nearly everyone, but the truly great will always stand out when it comes to creativity and technical savvy.

When a photographer has an abundance of both, they may even be able to monetize their talent. Wally German, a local photographer and DAAP grad, is the perfect example of this. Because of his skills behind the lens, Wally is entrusted with creating Rookwood Pottery's imagery, from visuals used for advertisements to documenting their current work for future generations. A company as revered as Rookwood wouldn't readily give that task to just anyone; that's an important job that directly affects how the world views the company's products.

Luckily, they bet on Wally. From our perspective, they bet well. His versatility in subject matter, creativity, technical expertise, and drive to do better every day separates him from his contemporaries. If you watch his Instagram stories on any given day, the likelihood of it featuring a behind-the-scenes look at his process is high. It's fascinating to watch how he can lay product down on a table and, through some visual wizardry, make it appear as though it's hanging on a wall instead.

We wanted to learn more about Wally, so we asked him a few questions about how he works, his history with photography, and more. You can see a collection of his photos in the gallery above.

Cincinnati Refined: Sum yourself up in a couple sentences.

Wally German: I am a very hard worker with a never-ending appetite for knowledge. I pride myself on being humble and open-minded. I can nerd-out on cars and cameras any time!

CR: What got you into photography?

WG: It was a mix of anger and magic! The anger came from my art classes in high school. I could never get my paintings or drawings to look as real as I saw them in front of me. I’ve always been a perfectionist, and photography got me closer to depicting things as I saw them. The magic started for me in my parents garage. My friend and I filled up a big clear Tupperware container with water and put 2-3 desk lamps with colored film all around. Then he took the eye dropper and let a drop fall, splashing into the water. I tried countless times to capture the drop when it hit the water. When I finally got the timing right and that water became frozen mid-impact, that got me hooked. To this day, photography is the one thing that still surprises me.

CR: You currently work for Cincinnati's revered Rookwood Pottery Company. What do you do there?

WG: I am the Lead Photographer at Rookwood. I am responsible for producing photos and video for social media, the website, print, and internal uses along with documentary work for archival purposes. Rookwood is a 139-year-old pottery company that continues to push innovation forward and create high quality Art Pottery and Architectural Tile in the United States. I am humbled to be in my position at Rookwood because I get the honor to showcase the craftsmanship and hard work of everyone there to the world.

CR: What’s your camera of choice?

WG: I am a Nikon person. I like the way the camera body feels in the hand, and all the buttons are where they make the most sense to me. I’m torn between the D810 and the Z6. The D810 has a stunning image quality, and when I bought it, it had the most megapixels available, which, for what I was doing, was important to me. Although, I’ve just recently gotten to work with a Z6, and that offers so many incredible features for photo and video that make working with it very quick and even more intuitive.

CR: The one lens you can’t live without?

WG: I’m going to cheat on this one and pick a zoom and a prime lens. The 24-70mm 2.8/f by Nikon is my go-to zoom. It is fast, sharp, and pretty robust. It’s the Swiss army knife of lenses! The 85mm 1.4/f by Nikon is my go to prime for portraiture. It’s hard for me to explain why I like it so much—it just captures things in a really pleasing way to me, and it’s never let me down.

CR: Most memorable/favorite experience while shooting?

WG: I’ve been fortunate to point my camera at some pretty great things, but I have to say that my favorite shoot is one that happens every year. My wife and I go to Ault Park’s annual car show, the Concours D'elegance. There, I get to enjoy my favorite things: photography, cars, and being with my wife.

CR: How would you describe your photographic style?

WG: Clean and crisp. I have branched out into a lot of different types of photography, and my goals have always been to have consistency across all subject matters to tie the photos back to my style—a style that's evolving and being refined as I grow and refine my craft.

CR: What’s at the top of your photography bucket list?

WG: I have always wanted to capture the Milky Way from Crater Lake in Oregon. My late cousin, Jake Roberson, loved that spot. My brother was lucky enough to travel there a year or two ago but didn’t get the opportunity to see the stars come out. The night sky to me is so humbling and magical. I’d love to see the Milky Way rise over the lake on a cloudless night.

CR: Any advice for aspiring photographers?

WG: Start by defining what success is for you. Then, whatever you do, don’t stop until you’ve reached your goal!

CR: Motto to live by

WG: Treat others as you wish to be treated

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If you'd like to see more from Wally, check out his sleek and elegantly designed personal website, and give him a follow on Instagram, of course.