Cleanroom for pharma. Lots of equipment, zero dust.

Cleanroom for pharma. Lots of equipment, zero dust.

In the deep recesses of my mind is a memory of a science fiction thriller from the early ‘70s called The Andromeda Strain in which a team of scientists have to isolate a destructive alien virus in a stark white “containment room” deep within a high tech underground lab.

So, as you might imagine, when a company called AES Clean Technology hired me to photograph their advanced design “cleanrooms,” my initial thought was that I was going to be subjected to a decontamination shower, have to don one of those white hazmat suits and then travel miles below the surface of the earth in order to take pictures of an environment that defines the term “white space.”

Well, not exactly.

Tanks… a lot.

Tanks… a lot.

Cleanrooms, as I learned, are spaces designed, built and constructed almost anywhere to manufacture items where the tiniest particles of dust can easily ruin the final product. Producing microelectronics, tubing for medical devices, biotech and pharmaceutical products can all require a hyper degree of dust-free cleanliness.

Even in antiseptic white, a human touch adds both warmth and scale.

Even in antiseptic white, a human touch adds both warmth and scale.

The investment companies make in cleanroom facilities are meant to reduce risk and should maximize performance. AES wanted photos that would both capture the tech and represent this value in brochures, on their website and in other marketing materials.

This image of a room within a room is one of three gracing the AES homepage.

This image of a room within a room is one of three gracing the AES homepage.

As you can see from the photos here, cleanroom facilities are often loaded with stuff. It’s just that all this stuff is really, really clean.

Above the ceiling sits an entire universe of mechanical systems and ducts.

Above the ceiling sits an entire universe of mechanical systems and ducts.

How clean? Well, entering a clean room is, in fact, a major procedure and it does require wearing specific shirts and pants. Booties, gloves, hairnets and beard nets are all part of the required get up. Some areas of a cleanroom can require double layers – and wearing two layers of gloves can lead to sweaty hands that make it challenging to manipulate the camera controls.

There’s also a procedure for cleaning and bringing photo equipment into a cleanroom. I brought in minimal gear and wiped down much of it with alcohol wipes.

Me with one layer of cleanroom clothing, including a beard net. Why a beard net? – I know I shaved that day!

Me with one layer of cleanroom clothing, including a beard net. Why a beard net? – I know I shaved that day!

I mean, I pride myself on working clean, but this was above and beyond.

Comment