Kacper Pempel

Kacper Pempel

Based
Warsaw, Poland
Born
Warsaw, Poland
Status
Photographer
Camera
Canon 5D Mark II, 1D Mark III
“I think good photography and photojournalism is a mix of professionalism and experience, but most importantly intuition.”

Beat

I cover all sorts of assignments, including breaking news, features, politics, cultural events and sports like soccer and ski jumping.

One Shot

. RADOM, Poland. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
Two planes from the Zelazny aerobatics team crash at the Radom Air Show in Poland.
“I will always be connected with this photograph, whether I like it or not. I had only been working for Reuters for three months, when on a slightly cloudy day near the small city of Radom a tragedy occurred as two acrobat pilots died in a mid-air collision. I was shooting pictures just to capture the acrobatics when the crash happened. It showed me that news breaks in front of your eyes and you have to be prepared for that, both technically and mentally.”

Profile

My father was a photographer, so ever since my childhood I have been very close to the subject. He actually didn’t want me to become a photographer but at the age of 12 I inherited his darkroom. With help from his photographer friends I explored the equipment he had left me, finding my way through the camera bodies and lenses he left behind. I soon realised that photography was more than just a hobby.

Having got to grips with the basics, I started to work for the local newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza during high school. I had to cover all sorts of assignments, from shots of pot-holes in the roads after a rough winter, to low-level political conferences and jazz concerts.

Working for the local paper taught me the basic rules of photojournalism; not just how to frame a shot, but also the ethics of photography, and how to suit the picture to the situation. From there, I went on to study photography in Polish Film School in Lodz which gave me wider view of different kinds of photography from art, to studio photography, to reportage.

In 1990 one of my father’s friends offered me the chance to attend a car show - the first one we’d ever had in Poland since the fall of Communism. At a time when every car on the street was an Eastern European relic, I got the chance to see under the hoods of all these brand new luxury cars from the West. For a 13-year-old boy with a camera, this was an incredible dream - one made even better when it was published by a local newspaper as my first picture.

Without doubt, the most shocking event of my career was the plane crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, along with another 94 top officials in Smolensk, Russia. When I first heard the news I couldn’t believe it had happened. I was completely shocked, paralysed, just like the rest of Poland. But at the time I was the only photographer on duty in the Warsaw bureau. Other photographers rushed in from the region to help, and the flood of work helped me keep some distance from what was to be the biggest peacetime tragedy in modern Polish history. But when the President’s coffin arrived at a military airport in Warsaw the next day, the full scale of the tragedy really hit home. I had to force myself to stop staring, and instead raise my camera to record the event for others.

I don’t usually have a target audience in mind when I frame a shot. I’m normally thinking about the subject whose picture is being taken, and how best I can depict their message.

I have enormous respect for war journalists and for how much they suffer for their work. I also admire the talents of Elliot Erwitt who has a fantastic eye for photography, and the story-telling skills of Sebastiao Salgado.

I think good photography and photojournalism is a mix of professionalism and experience, but most importantly intuition. Feeling that something is about to happen, and preparing for that, is the key to a good picture in my opinion.

Behind the Scenes

. Klagenfurt, Austria. Miro Kuzmanovic
Reuters Photographer Kacper Pempel covers a soccer match between Germany and Poland during the 2008 UEFA European Football Championship.