Plath Pictures Delight Hamburg

The publisher of aviation magazine AERO International is one of the world’s most renowned and acclaimed aircraft and airport photographers. Some of his pictures such as a spectacular snapshot of an Airbus Beluga transporter are meanwhile legendary. Now, a selection of Dietmar Plath’s best photographs adorns an avenue in Hamburg, Germany.

Dietmar Plath at the ribbon cutting ceremony, unveiling his famous iguana photo  -  pictures: hs
Dietmar Plath at the ribbon cutting ceremony, unveiling his famous iguana photo - pictures: hs

One picturesque photo catches the eye immediately: in the foreground is an iguana, right behind the dragon-like creature stands an Airbus jetliner. Dietmar recalls: “Galapagos was one of my dream destinations ranking the top of my list. So I was highly excited when I finally arrived there. But after we landed and had gotten off the plane at Seymour Airport a ground guy was busy chasing off some of the iguanas dozing on the tarmac. A catastrophe, because this fellow was just about destroying a unique motif, I thought. So I rushed over, asking him to please stop going after the animals for a while until I had taken my snapshots.” Since then the iguana picture with an Airbus of Ecuadorian TAME Airline in the background has become famous, published hundredfold.

Since last week, this remarkable photo decorates a pedestrian zone in Hamburg’s noble district Hafen-City together with dozens of other Airbus themes pictured by Dietmar in his long career as an aviation photographer.

 

Kerosene in his veins
“No distance is too long, he spares no efforts to exercise his professional passion,” stated Vice President Georg Mecke of Airbus in his laudatory address during the opening of the exposition. “To me it appears that you have no blood but kerosene in your veins,” he addressed the artist. 

Old buddies: Dietmar Plath and Hartmut Mehdorn
Old buddies: Dietmar Plath and Hartmut Mehdorn

The facts prove this. Until today, 61 year-old Dietmar has flown 5.5 million kilometers, visited 130 countries in search of exciting and unique aviation motifs and did not shy away from problems when traveling. This is vividly illustrated by his visit to Bhutan that – being a journalist – he was not allowed to enter since the authorities had denied issuing visa for any foreign press person. He flew anyway but stranded in Calcutta, urging a local airline despite missing documentation, to take him from there to Thimphu, the country’s capital. After having truly gotten on the nerves of the Indian airline’s check-in staff, they finally gave him a seat on board the carrier along with the comment that Bhutan’s immigration would immediately send him back to Calcutta, putting him on the return flight. So the officials did upon arrival, but while the aircraft stood at the tarmac he took the opportunity to take as many pictures of the local aviation scenery as possible. “Although I failed getting into Bhutan I succeeded in making some remarkable pics, and that’s basically all I wanted to accomplish,” Dietmar recalls one of the tricky mission he managed to finalize successfully due to his distinctive endurance.

 

Meet with the Pope and Neil Armstrong 
Other unforgettable journeys were trips with Pope John Paul II in an Alitalia aircraft, a thorough interview with astronaut Neil Armstrong or a meeting with the King of Tonga. Asked about who influenced and supported him most on his globe-spanning photographic journies, he points at his former mentor, Hartmut Mehdorn.  A controversial figure at the German top management level, shown repeatedly as Chief of Railway giant Deutsche Bahn, or CEO of Air Berlin and also Head of the unfortunate BER Airport project.

A further visual attraction: Airbus Beluga transporter pictured by Plath
A further visual attraction: Airbus Beluga transporter pictured by Plath

Mehdorn became kind of a godfather
But what’s less well-known is his outstanding Airbus commitment. It was Mehdorn, who in his former role as Chairman of Airbus Germany GmbH managed to secure the production of the aircraft manufacturer’s single aisle variants at its Hamburg plant, laying the roots for the port city’s rise to become the third largest aviation site worldwide, after Seattle and Toulouse. 
Back in the early 80’s, Hartmut Mehdorn employed Dietmar Plath at Airbus. During that time, producing aircraft in Germany encountered a lot of opposition, recalled Mehdorn in his congratulatory speech at the opening of the exposition. “It was you, Dietmar,” he addressed the artist directly, “that initiated a change of image from negative to positive through your illustrations and by sparking the interest of the media in aviation topics.”

Plath’s photo collection is decorating Singapurstrasse in Hamburg’s Harbor City
Plath’s photo collection is decorating Singapurstrasse in Hamburg’s Harbor City

He won numerous awards
And it was Mehdorn who paid a major fee for getting Plath out of a prison in India where he was jailed on accusation of espionage. His crime: he had taken some pictures of aircraft within a military area of an Indian airport. “He was jailed twice, but we managed to get him home safely,” said Mehdorn. Once back in Germany, Dietmar presented more than 400 snapshots he had taken there, some showing spectacular motifs which won some prestigious awards.
The Dietmar Plath/Airbus photo exposition in Hamburg Harbour City at Singapurstrasse can be visited until 5th of November.

Heiner Siegmund

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