In 1990 the two Munich-based political scientists Stephan Bock and Gerald Staufer crossed paths for the first time. Soon the found common grounds – the love for photography. 13 years later the two founded Westend61, a stock photography agency and. Another 15 years later it became home of Europe’s best lifestyle photographers with over 100 sales partners all over the continent. For the 15th anniversary, we talked with managing director Gerald – an attempt of a summary.
Where does the name Westend61 come from?
The first small office unit was based in Westendstraße 61 in Munich. When Stephan and I were looking for a name we just got inspired by the location: „sounds cool, very international, a little mysteriously and it doesn’t say picture or image – we take it!“
Who are the founders?
Stephan and I met 1990 in the student council of political scientists. We deepened our friendship at various student parties. Cheers everyone!
What was the first sold image?
A happy child as a good omen for the future of the agency. The photo was taken by Claudia Rehm.
What looked the typical Westend61 picture like back in the days?
In the beginning, we thought we’ll be a travel picture agency, but quickly our focus changed to lifestyle. That doesn’t mean that were not fans of amazing travel photography ;).
How did the change from analog to digital take place?
In the founding year 2003 our first Investment went into a dia scanner. At that time all images were developed from dias. 2005 the Canon EOS 10D came on the market. It wasn’t a quantum leap with only six mp, but the image quality was astonishingly good. Ever since photographers started to deliver digital images and the scanner went into the back room in its well-deserved retirement.
15 years probably mean a lot of sold images and also some big sellers, right?
That is an interesting development. I’d flood the article if I point out all pictures so I took some images for every five years. From 2003-2007 we sold a certain picture of a safe quite often. The next five years it was an areal view of a wound country road in between fields and after that a garden picture with happy children. As said – the lifestyle and therefore people photography became our focus more and more.
From Munich to the world – Westend61 employees work remote – where do we find them?
Of course in Munich, three more times in Germany and one more time in southern Europe – a little picture puzzle.
The party everyone has been talking about ever since?
That’s easy – our 10th anniversary! There were about 200 hundred people, every single one loving photography. The atmosphere was top notch, and since then the sales started going up ;).
What was the biggest internal project?
The homepage relaunch – at times painful in its birth! We have redefined us completely: new design, new ci, finally an up-to-date-webshop (that was overdue;) ) – a completely new Look and Feel. Nine months with highs and lows but at the end everyone was happy. When you’re in it for 15 years, it’s those projects that push you.
What was the most exciting production until today?
Oh, there are many. Often the locations itself are exciting to see, and it doesn’t matter if you are in Capetown or Cologne. At set, there is always something unplanned happening. If I have to mention one exciting topic, it’s probably Martin Rietze with his volcano photography – absolutely amazing. I get goosebumps just by looking at the pictures.
Who is the longest serving photographer?
Claudia Rehm who I met at a party in 2003. She is a children photographer and took our first sold image. We got to talk about a lot of things, and I mentioned the agency Stephan and I were about to found. She’s been a part ever since, from the first hour.
What does the typical Westend61 picture look like today?
That would be the perfect lifestyle photo with a perfect model in a perfect location. Add a mid-European look, not American and all of that credible of course. I picked one right here, but there are various examples.
Who is the eternal employee?
That would be Micha. He is an art director and produces a lot with a photographer network in Cologne. First class lifestyle pictures are the result. I’ll never forget his job interview: he mentioned us having too many pictures of the Alps and in nature in general. We lack an urban aspect. Long story short: he pushed us to become more urban and modern. We are super happy about having him.
The current team photo!
What will happen in the future of Westend61?
We will become the best-arranged provider of premium lifestyle photography on the German market. We have more ideas to implement in the nearer future, but it would be too soon to talk about it now. We’ll do that at our 20th anniversary. One thing is for sure: We will continue to produce the pictures you will love!