I cover politics, business stories, sports, human-interest pieces and events.
I taught myself photography step by step, learning from my good shots, lucky shots and total disasters. And of course I studied the best examples of photojournalism since the profession began.
To my mind, learning photography isn't just about techniques or composition, it's about broad and continuous self-education. A good photojournalist should have knowledge of lots of different areas: economics, politics, culture and sports, and should also be well informed about trends globally and locally.
I got my first assignment in 1983. At that time I was doing photography as a hobby, when one day the brother of a university classmate, who was a professional photojournalist, asked me to take some simple shots of a handball team training session. He briefly explained what kind of picture his paper needed and I agreed. The job got done, the pictures were... so-so. But one was published.
After that first picture was published I decided to go to cover an important basketball game. I had no press pass, a simple East German Practica camera and only one 50mm lens. I don’t remember how I got there, but I got a great shot that was published on the front page. It changed my life and I switched from being a history teacher to a photojournalist.
Stories about human tragedies always make me feel awful. I felt that way after I covered the earthquake in Armenia in 1988 and after I shot a story just a few weeks ago about a nice Swedish girl named Emelie who suffered from narcolepsy. Why? Because you should always put yourself in the shoes of your subjects to tell a true story. That process puts a lot of pressure on my feelings. Other people’s pain is my pain too.
I respect the people in my pictures. They are my heroes; they help me tell my story. For me, they are the most important of all.