My first experience of photography was very artistic, even though I have always been much more interested in photojournalism. I watched lots of fantastic movies and I think that led me to be interested in photography.
I learnt to photograph when I did a masters in photography in Brussels. Photojournalism was a minor part of that course, but for me it was the most interesting part. Studio courses and theory, including the history of photography, gave me a broad knowledge of my subject.
In my opinion, it is essential to have a global vision of what makes a good picture. A good photo must be, as far as possible, technically perfect but also refer to history. It can be the present, the future, or the past, as long as it tells a story.
My first assignment for Reuters took place in 1994. I was a freelancer at the time and I was assigned to cover a meeting between Belgian King Albert and a foreign dignitary. It was the first time that I had to take pictures of the king and I was stressed about the short time I would have to take the photo. We usually only have a few seconds to work, but for a first time it went quite well! The editor-in-chief at the Brussels picture desk was very satisfied in the end.
My first big event for Reuters was covering the Fifa World Cup in France in 1998. I was travelling with the Belgian soccer team and had the chance to cover lots of great matches.
The assignment that left the biggest mark on me was covering the 2004 tsunami in East Asia. I was so impressed by the positivity of the people I met in Sri Lanka, despite the fact that they had lost everything. Some of those I met even lost multiple family members in the disaster.
It makes me proud to take part in coverage of big, worldwide events, but I enjoy covering all kinds of things. I like to meet people when I take pictures and I like to search for a key image that will tell the story.
I imagine the largest audience possible when I take pictures. A good picture does not always need to tell a top story though. It is a challenge to touch lots of people with the power of good photos, sometimes just showing a simple moment of daily life.
Always be prepared. It is so important to know the story you are about to shoot. Stay quiet and concentrate. It is also important to think about the little details, which can add really strong angles when reporting an event. And it is always crucial to respect the subject of your pictures.
Photography can be so powerful. All of us as photojournalists must keep that in mind, and use this tool to keep the world connected and encourage people to respect each other.