Wolfgang Hoffmann, who chronicled CALS on film for 45 years, passed away in his home on Tuesday, July 12, 2016. He was 68 years old.
Hoffmann was born and raised in Germany, where he completed studies at the Bavarian State Academy for Photography in 1970. The following year, he moved to the United States to take a position at UW-Madison as a filmmaker and photographer in the Department of Agricultural Journalism, now the Department of Life Sciences Communication (LSC). In this primarily outreach role, Hoffmann produced educational films and took photos illustrating a wide range of agricultural and natural resources subjects.
“Wolfgang was an outstanding photographer and filmmaker. His work was exacting and he produced wonderful films and photos that told the story he wanted to convey in beautiful ways,” says LSC emeritus professor Larry Meiller, who was Hoffmann’s colleague from the beginning. “At the same time he was a warm human being who made friends easily and was liked by virtually everyone. We are fortunate to have had him as a colleague and, even more, as a great friend.”
While working, Hoffmann pursued additional education on campus, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Agricultural Journalism in 1975 and 1979, respectively.
Hoffmann created films for many audiences, including K-12 classrooms, industry groups as well as the general public. One, “Food and Jobs: Wisconsin Agriculture,” was shown on Wisconsin Public Television and won local, national and international awards. Another award-winning film was “How to Have an Accident,” which focused on farm safety.
In 1984, Hoffmann took on the role of photojournalism instructor for the department, teaching students the art and skills of photo composition and darkroom processing.
As time passed and technologies evolved, Hoffmann stopped producing films and focused on photography as part of the CALS Communication Program, now the CALS Office of External Relations, where he created images to help illustrate stories about the college’s research, outreach and educational efforts.
“Wolfgang went at his work like a reporter. He had a great eye and he was a technical perfectionist, but he also spent a lot of time talking to the researchers to learn the science behind what they were doing and come up with a way to illustrate that. He created wonderful images that told complicated stories,” says emeritus university relations specialist Bob Mitchell, who worked with Hoffmann on many projects.
Hoffmann was a long-time member of Agricultural Communicators in Education (now Association for Communication Excellence in Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Life and Human Sciences), serving at one point as Wisconsin’s representative to the organization. He also volunteered to serve as a judge in numerous photography and film competitions.
After his retirement in 2006, Hoffmann continued working as a freelance photographer and was a regular photo contributor to Grow, CALS’ alumni magazine.
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