Cars

Zoom Master: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch

A zoom lens is an optical system with a variable focal length, allowing the photographer to easily and quickly change the composition of the image. But it's also a wonderful instrument to capture the dynamics of racing in all its drama. And no one does it better than Rainer W. Schlegelmilch. Now featured in his book, 'Porsche Racing Moments.'

  • Text
    Bernd Haase
  • Fotos
    Rainer W. Scblegelmilch / Motorsport Images

With superlatives, one should be cautious. But with Rainer W. Schlegelmilch, we can't help it: he's a legend. He spent more than fifty years of his life at racing circuits worldwide, not only capturing the entire drama of competition with his photographs but also revolutionizing the art of photography itself. He intuitively discovered the possibilities offered by a zoom lens and the right exposure.


ramp's editor-in-chief, Michael Köckritz, wanted to know in an interview (available December 8th in ramp#63 – Happy on the road) how this came about and when it's better to quickly flee when photographing at the racetrack. Like back in 1969, during the 1,000-kilometer race at the Nürburgring, when Vic Elford took off in his Porsche 908, flying over him – luckily, both emerged unharmed.


Despite all the dangers that lurked even on the sidelines of the track before the introduction of safety zones, Schlegelmilch emphasizes: 'Honestly, I'm glad I experienced those early years, those decades. They motivated me for all the later years. Only much later did I realize that that time was the best.'

This time is brought to life in his book, 'Porsche Racing Moments,' published by Taschen Verlag. It doesn't only showcase Porsche race cars in Schlegelmilch's dynamic shots captured with a zoom effect from 1963 to 1988. It also focuses on the people behind the scenes and beyond the racetrack – drivers in conversation and mechanics with oil-stained hands. The edition of the book is limited to 962 copies, each numbered and signed by the photographer himself.



Oh, and what role did Porsche play in Schlegelmilch's life beyond that? The brand significantly influenced his career path. After receiving his first camera at the age of 14, he attended the photo school in Munich and subsequently graduated from the State Institute for Photography Advertising Photography. Why? 

'I arrived at this wisdom: ›If you ever want to drive a Porsche, to earn money, you have to do advertising. That's the most sensible thing to do.‹ And that's what I did for fifty years.'


Fortunately, not exclusively. More coming soon in ramp#63.

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