Jean-Paul Pelissier

Jean-Paul Pelissier

Marseille, France
Marseille, France
“I never forget that we are fortunate to be here in the present, witnessing life and documenting events for others”


I photograph breaking news, sports and showbiz, and sometimes I cover conflicts too.

One Shot

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton jogs through Paris' Place de la Concorde accompanied by two secret service agents.
“I took this photo when President Clinton was in Paris on a state visit. At the end of the day, after the official pictures had been taken, I was on the way back to the agency when suddenly I saw him jogging through a traffic jam at the Place de la Concorde. I thought I was going to have a heart attack trying to follow him with all my stuff. But I did it!”


My earliest memory of photography is shooting pictures on holiday when I was 13, using an old Nikon F. One of my friends showed me how to process film in his dark room, and I saw for the first time how the image I had shot appeared on the photographic paper. It was a revelation!

I never went to photography school; I learnt through years of trial and error.

My first assignment was for a small news agency, covering forest fires in the south of France. All summer, I went out and photographed pilots in their fire-fighting planes.

The assignment that left the biggest mark on me was covering the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Some 800,000 people were slaughtered during the mass killings of Tutsis and moderate Hutus. It was the first time I was confronted with the sight of so many dead people. I had the feeling that I was a useless spectator, and at the same time, I felt the need to testify to what I had seen. Twenty years later, I still have the same horrible images in my mind. Impossible to forget.

All sorts of stories excite me: sport, politics, showbiz, war and daily life. I never forget that we are fortunate to be here in the present, witnessing life and documenting events for others - whether they are good or bad.

When taking pictures, I try to keep calm and just take the situation in.

My biggest lesson has been that anything is possible, even if you think otherwise.

As a photographer I just want to be honest and respect the people I photograph in all circumstances.

Behind the Scenes

. Cannes, France
Reuters photographer Jean-Paul Pelissier takes pictures as actress Paris Hilton arrives on the red carpet at the Cannes film festival.