IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

Framing the Narrative: Insights from Kerstin Güntzel, Senior Picture Editor at IMAGO

In The Game Magazine's latest interview, meet Kerstin Güntzel, Senior Picture Editor at IMAGO. With a career spanning over two decades, Kerstin shares her journey from a passionate photographer and journalist in Berlin to a key figure in shaping visual narratives. Throughout this interview, she shares what makes a photo stand out, the importance of storytelling, and how to develop a unique visual style.

For over two decades, Kerstin Güntzel has been immersed in the world of visual storytelling, where the art of photography intersects with journalism, politics, and culture. Upon moving to Berlin to further her education at Humboldt University, Kerstin found herself so captivated by the city’s vibrant cultural scene that she made it her home.

Her deep-rooted passion for photography and a keen interest in current affairs naturally led her to a career at IMAGO, where she has been a pivotal figure in shaping visual narratives as a senior picture editor. “Since then, the events and stories of the last 20 years have been coming across my screen almost every day,” she reflects.

At the heart of her work lies a daily engagement with a diverse array of events and stories, which she skillfully curates and edits alongside her team. In her role, Kerstin not only oversees the live coverage of events and thematic collections but also mentors the next generation of photo editors at IMAGO, sharing her wealth of knowledge and experience.

In this interview, Kerstin delves into what makes a photo stand out at its core. Drawing from years of her experience, she discusses the key qualities that set apart a photograph and, by extension, the photographer behind the lens.

Framing the Narrative: Insights from Kerstin Güntzel, Senior Picture Editor at IMAGO
Photo by Nicole Woischwill.

“They (photographers) should definitely develop their own distinctive visual language and always work on their style. Sometimes dare to change your perspective or try out a modern visual language. And don’t lose sight of the little stories in the margins.” – Kerstin Güntzel.

 

Could you please tell us about yourself, your background, and how long you have been in the photography industry?

As a journalist, I have always been interested in stories and reports. In my youth, I started taking analog photos and developing them myself. During this time, I also wrote for a local newspaper. I moved to Berlin to study contemporary history at Humboldt University and have stayed until today. My passion for photography and my interest in politics, culture, current affairs and sport have led me to IMAGO as a photo editor. Since then, the events and stories of the last 20 years have been coming across my screen almost every day.

What is your role in the Picture Desk as a senior picture editor?

Thanks to my many years of experience in Picture Desk, I can, together with the IMAGO team, focus on the important and most interesting topics for customers in the daily wide range of content and thus do justice to the enormous volume. I prepare and structure large thematic collections and events and then edit them together with the team.

Something that is still important even after so many years: Always keeping your eyes and senses open, tracking down social issues, anticipating trends and processing them editorially. I am of course, very happy to pass on my experience and routines to new or younger colleagues.

“Storytelling allows us to participate in a world of emotions, environments, adventures, events, and landscapes from all over the world.” – Kerstin Güntzel.

 

From your experience as a senior picture editor, what are the top three qualities that make a photograph memorable? (Editorial, Entertainment, Sports and creative)

A truly memorable photograph always tells a good story. It has been shot for editorial, entertainment or sports with a great sense for the right moment. It contains emotions such as happiness, sadness, horror, struggle or loss, immediately touching the viewer. Photos in the creative field, for example, tell us stories from faraway countries but can still convey a feeling of vastness or tranquillity or even of hustle and bustle. A good photo has been deliberately designed. It shows the viewer the essential image statement and image design in harmony. The composition of light, colors, lines and shapes underline the photo’s message. In addition, technical factors such as sharpness and exposure are essential for a really good picture.

What elements do you consider when creating a collection of live coverage of sports or events?

The stories before, on and off the pitch/event, records and statistics, emotions such as concentration, struggle, triumph, defeat, key figures, constellations of people, relationships, dynamics and action, moods, for example, created by light.

imago images/Image Source
IMAGO / Image Source / Eugenio Marongiu

IMAGO/ZUMA Wire
IMAGO / ZUMA Wire / David Swanson | The Bobcat Fire rages in the Angeles National Forest behind La Noria Restaurant in Monrovia, California, U.S. – September 10, 2020.

IMAGO/Photosport
IMAGO / Photosport / Marcelo Hernandez | Samuel Da Silva of Brazil competes in the 50m Backstroke S5 final during the STGO 2023 Parapan American Games at the Parque Estadio Nacional Aquatic Center on November 19 in Santiago, Chile – November 30, 2023.

“Something that is still important even after so many years: Always keeping your eyes and senses open, tracking down social issues, anticipating trends and processing them editorially.” – Kerstin Güntzel.

 

How important is storytelling in today’s photography? Any advice on how photographers can effectively tell stories through their images?

Storytelling allows us to participate in a world of emotions, environments, adventures, events and landscapes from all over the world.

Especially today in the field of documentary photography, photos that manage to tell a story – without big headlines and the numerous social media videos or statements – are particularly valuable. They tell us about the mood and the situation on the ground. Being able to tell stories with photos alone is one of the most difficult and important tasks of photography.

How can photographers keep their editorial work fresh and innovative, especially when covering recurring events or subjects?

They should definitely develop their own distinctive visual language and always work on their style. Sometimes dare to change your perspective or try out a modern visual language. And don’t lose sight of the little stories in the margins.

As the last question, can you share an experience where a particular image or photo story deeply impacted you personally? 

There are always photo reports of events that touch me deeply. I can show you a few examples.

IMAGO/camera4+
IMAGO / camera4+ | Team USA was eliminated from the FIBA Basketball World Cup after losing 113-111 to Germany in the semifinals.

IMAGO/NTB
IMAGO / NTB / Javad Parsa | A rally in support of the Iranian people outside the Grand Hotel in Oslo, Norway, during the Nobel Peace Prize 2022 – December 12, 2022.

imago images/ZUMA Wire
IMAGO / ZUMA Wire / Department of Defense | United States Marine Corps Sergeant Nicole Gee of Roseville, California, comforts infants alongside fellow military service members at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. August 28, 2021, Kabul.

IMAGO/SNA
IMAGO / SNA / Alexey Kudenko | A destroyed Dramatic theater in Mariupol after the Russian attacks and their invasion of Ukraine. Mariupol, Ukraine – April 26, 2022.

IMAGO/Future Image
IMAGO / Future Image / C.Hardt | Heavy rains and continuous rainfall lead to flooding and inundations in the Eifel region. July 15, 2021, Dernau, Germany.

imago images/ZUMA Wire
IMAGO / ZUMA Wire / Carol Guzy | Supporters of President Donald Trump breach the U.S. Capitol as election results are to be certified in Washington, D.C., USA – January 6, 2021.
imago images/Future Image International
IMAGO / Future Image International | The temporary mortuary at Palacio de Hielo, established in March due to congestion in funeral parlors caused by the Corona crisis, is closed. Madrid, April 22, 2020.

imago images/Future Image
IMAGO / Future Image / F.Kern | Thousands of demonstrators protest against the government’s corona policy at the Brandenburg Gate and in the government district. Berlin, November 18, 2020.
imago stock&people
IMAGO / AFLO | Medical staff in protective gear check radiation levels on local residents in Koriyama, Fukushima prefecture, Japan. This follows a series of troubles at a nearby nuclear power plant triggered by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake on March 11, 2011, Koriyama.

You can view some of Kerstine’s photo collections here:

Entertainment: Famous Feminists, Angela Davis

IMAGO Creative: Baby Boomer Generation, Generation Z, Generation Y Millenials, Generation X

IMAGO Creative, Seasons, Autumn

IMAGO Cultures of the world: Toraja people in Indonesia

IMAGO Nature: Our Earth, Animals, Masters of Camouflage

Current Affairs: Saxony and the Structural Changes in Lusatia

Current Affairs: France, Life in the Paris Banlieues

The credit of the cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire / Avishek Das.