mobile-bannertablet-bannerdesktop-banner
Chancellor Angela Merkel with paperwork at her desk in her office in the Federal Chancellery in Berlin. July 8, 2011.
Chancellor Angela Merkel with paperwork at her desk in her office in the Federal Chancellery in Berlin. July 8, 2011.Steffen Kugler—Bundesregierung
Chancellor Angela Merkel with paperwork at her desk in her office in the Federal Chancellery in Berlin. July 8, 2011.
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and US President Barack Obama arrive to the G7/Outreach meeting during the G7 summit in Elmau. June 8, 2015.
Chancellor Angela Merkel about to bord a police helicopter after a visit at renowned German watch manufacturer Lange in Glashütte. Sept. 20, 2010.
Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a press statement after the cancellation of a football match between Netherlands and Germany due to a terror alert following the Paris attacks. Nov. 18, 2015.
After the German-Spanish Government consultations chancellor Angela Merkel boards her plane on the airport of Madrid to return to Berlin. Feb. 3, 2011.
Chancellor Angela Merkel checking messages on her phone whilst walking from United Nations Building to her Hotel in Manhattan. Sept. 20, 2015.
Chancellor Angela Merkel receives the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi at the chancellery in Berlin with military honors. April 14, 2015.
Chinese Premiere Li Keqiang receives Chancellor Angela Merkel with Military Honors in front of Great Hall of the People in Bejing, China. Oct. 29, 2015.
Chancellor Angela Merkel is Benimm welcomed by Mongolian Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold in Ulan Bator. Oct. 13, 2011.
Chancellor Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang are being welcomed by students at Hefei University, China. Oct. 30, 2015.
Chancellor Merkel in a discussion with Martin Schulz (President of European Parliament; left) and French president Francois Hollande in the European Parliament Building in Strasbourg, France. Oct. 7, 2015.
Chancellor Merkel welcomes G7 heads of states shortly before the summit's official start. June 7, 2015.
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron take a walk in the garden of Chequers Court, the country house retreat of U.K.'s Prime Minister at the beginning of the Chancellor’s visit. Oct. 9, 2015.
Chancellor Angela Merkel about to board a police helicopter after visiting the region of Hitzacker, Lower Saxony, which was hit by severe flooding. June 12, 2013.
Chancellor Angela Merkel hands over soccer balls as a gift to kids, while she visits the Kibbuz Sde Boker togther with the then president of Israel, Shimon Peres. Merkel visited the Kibbuz, at the beginning of the first German-Israeli Government Consultations. March 16, 2008.
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel talks with a student of a so called Willkommensklasse (welcome class) during her visit to Ferdinand-Freiligrath-school in Berlin-Kreuzberg. Three welcome classes with 36 places are established in this 230-student-school and should ease the school-start for the non-German-speaking refugees. Sept. 10, 2015.
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the beginning of their meeting in the Chancellery in Berlin with their advisors (right to left): Israel General Eliezer Toledano, Yossi Cohen, National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Israel, Germany's spokesman Steffen Seibert and foreign advisor to the Chancellor Christoph Heusgen. Oct 21, 2015.
ChaChancellor Merkel returns to Berlin airport at 3 AM after a meeting at the European Council in Brussels. May 24, 2012.ncellor Merkel returns to Berlin airport at 3 A.M. after a meeting at the European Council in Brussels
Chancellor Merkel and President Obama talk in a restaurant in Washington D.C. June 7, 2011.
Angela Merkel, her husband Joachim Sauer and Michelle and Barrack Obama on their way to dinner in the White House's Rose garden. June 8, 2011.
Chancellor Merkel adresses German and Russian Business Leaders and cvil rights activists in the German embassy in Moscow after Russian-German Government consultations. Nov. 16, 2012.
After a break during the peace talks for the conflict in Ukraine in Minsk (Belarus), Chancellor Merkel and President Putin of Russia, return to the negotiation table. Feb. 11, 2015.
Chancellor Angela Merkel leaves the plane at the airport of Kiev, after arriving for another round of negotiations with the presidents of France, Ukraine and Russia to settle the conflict in Ukraine. Feb. 5, 2015.ellor Angela Merkel leaves the plane at the airport of Kiev, after arriving for another round of negotiations with the presidents of France, Ukraine and Russia to settle the conflict in Ukraine. Feb. 5, 2015. MerkelRR
Chancellor Merkel talks to German soldiers who are deployed with a Patriot Air defense unit in Kahramanmaras in southern Turkey close to the Syrian border. Feb. 24, 2013.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and the then Minister of Defence, Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg arrive at Camp Marmal in Masar-e-Sharif to a commemaration ceremony for a soldier, killed the day before. Dec. 18, 2010.
Chancellor Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron joke as they wait for their elevators after a European Council meeting in Brussels. Oct. 19, 2012.
Chancellor Angela Merkel shares a conversation with the then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton at the NATO Summit in Lisbon. Nov. 20, 2010.
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel checks her smartphone while waiting for the arrival of the heads of state for the Conference on Western Balkan in the Federal Chancellery in Berlin. Aug. 28, 2014. warten auf die Ankunft der Regierungschefs des westlichen Balkans
Chancellor Angela Merkel with paperwork at her desk in her office in the Federal Chancellery in Berlin. July 8, 2011.
Steffen Kugler—Bundesregierung
1 of 29

Meet Angela Merkel’s Official Photographer

Dec 09, 2015

Correction appended, Dec. 9, 2015

President Barack Obama has Pete Souza, Lawrence Jackson, Charles Kennedy and Amanda Lucidon. Chancellor Angela Merkel has Jesco Denzel, Sandra Steins, Guido Bergmann and Steffen Kugler – four photographers who follow her in Germany and around the world, recording her every move – or at least those they can get access to.

While in the U.S., Souza, Obama’s chief photographer, has virtually unlimited access to the president, in Germany, where Angela Merkel is known for her aversion for photographs of herself [she declined to be photographed for TIME’s story], the job is a little more complicated.

Read More: TIME's 2015 Person of the Year Is Angela Merkel

Denzel joined the team of four photographers and one photo editor – Nicole Dartsch – five and half years ago. A documentary photographer with 15 years of experience, Denzel has always worked discreetly, he says, “putting the time to get to know people I’m working with and to then be as invisible as I possibly can.”

That approach is even more important when working for the German government – all four photographers share duties between the Chancellor and the country’s Federal President, Joachim Gauck. “There’s two different situations for us as official photographers,” says Denzel. “The first one is when everything is controlled. It usually means waiting in front of some door to be rushed into the room – that’s usually the case during conferences and bilateral or multilateral talks.” At that point, the official photographer on duty will have a few minutes, if not a few seconds, to get the required shots. “This speed and very limited radius were new to me and it took some time getting to terms with that,” he says.

The second setting is what the photographers call “in-between” moments when the Chancellor is with close members of her staff before or after official events. “That’s where we, as photographers, can actually use our skills to create a proper frame, to wait for the right moment,” says Denzel. But that also comes with some limitations. “We have to avoid by any means interrupting or disturbing the situation. I think all four of us would rather take one photo less than one too many.”

Through the job can be hard at times, Denzel and his colleagues have travelled the world and met with world leaders from Queen Elizabeth to Benjamin Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin. But for Denzel, his most memorable moment was when he found himself in a White House meeting room with President Obama, Chancellor Merkel, and his counterpart: Souza. “Here we were,” he says. “It was surreal.”

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the location of a meeting between President Obama, Chancellor Angela Merkel and their respective photographers. It was at a restaurant.

TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.