Kai Pfaffenbach

Kai Pfaffenbach

Frankfurt, Germany
Hanau, Germany
“My biggest lesson has been to get calmer, but still be ambitious.”


I cover all kinds of breaking news, major sports events and conflicts.

One Shot

The newly elected Pope Benedict XVI blesses thousands of pilgrims from the balcony of the St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.
“With the great help of our Paris chief photographer Mal Langsdon I found a unique angle to cover this very special moment.”


My earliest memory of photography is my dad taking family pictures. It always took ages until he pressed the shutter release and then the film "rested" in the camera for weeks. But still, great memories!

I learnt photography in parallel with my journalism studies. The best teachers were the photographers and darkroom workers at Germany's prestigious Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in Frankfurt.

The first "important" assignment I covered was some fourth division soccer league match. I didn’t get anything really sharp, the black and white prints looked ugly and I was very lucky that the sports editor (Germany's great soccer expert Harald Stenger) gave me a second chance.

The two assignments that left the biggest mark on me were the 1999 earthquake in Turkey and the aftermath of 9/11 in New York. Both events were deeply emotionally draining.

I love covering Olympic games and soccer world championships, but an old and wise photographer said once: enjoy each and every assignment like a Sunday morning church service!

The best thing about the job is the reaction of people. You get emails or messages from people you’ve never seen or heard of, and many are grateful for the work we do. As a photojournalist you get a great chance to witness things happening, sometimes historic moments, whether you’re in a stadium or a conflict zone.

It it is also a challenge - you always meet the top range of competition and I actually like the mix of being on the spot and being competitive.

What makes a picture good is when it evokes emotions in people, whether positive or negative. Sometimes one picture can tell you more than someone can in 1,000 words. You look at it and you see exactly what’s going on, even if you can’t express your own emotions in words.

I love the old school idea of big prints in newspapers and magazines, but these days new and social media gives each photographer great opportunities to display his or her work.

As I get older, my biggest lesson has been to get calmer, but still be ambitious. A few friends or colleagues wanted to teach me this. My wife finally succeeded.

I have great respect in particular for two Reuters colleagues: Damir Sagolj, a great photographer and wonderful friend; and Goran Tomasevic, who is a hugely courageous conflict photographer and deserves great respect. Their work is an inspiration.

Behind the Scenes

Gdansk, Poland
Kai Pfaffenbach waits for politicians to arrive at a 2012 Uefa European Soccer championship game.
. Kiev, Ukraine
Pfaffenbach prepares to cover the Euro 2012 final between Spain and Italy in Kiev.