Here you can read how and when I became a nature photographer, why I publish b&w photos only, which equipment I use...
When did you find photography as a career? How did it happen?
I was not supposed to become a photographer. I started in photography while I was working for a local daily newspaper in Poitiers, France. At that time, I was a sports news reporter and I wrote the minutes of the games. The editor asked me to complete my articles with pictures. I accepted and soon, I began to enjoy taking pictures, more than I would enjoy writing. This is how I ended up as a photographer.
You first started as a photographer in sport and current affairs, what events led you to change that and pursue nature photography?
When I started to photograph African wildlife in 2002, I didn’t have any specific target. I went there without pressure or press order. Just for my own pleasure, I started doing personal work in black and white about this amazing wildlife. This was in total contradiction with my work as a photojournalist. It was almost a necessary cure against the urban way of life to which I was becoming allergic.
What are your favourite animals to photograph? Why?
The lion is my favorite biggest African animal to work with because he is the most impressive. His personality is both quiet and strong. He is really the king of the bush and that is apparent in everything he is or does.
Describe what it is like to photograph dangerous animals? What feelings to do you have?
In fact, I feel less danger photographing wild animals than living with civilized people. Wildlife rules are simple and clear. It is not always the same thing with humans. I feel a lot of emotions when I take a picture in the wild: it may be something like confidence and concentration, a tranquil state of body and mind.
What’s the difference between taking pictures of human being and animals?
For me, there is no difference between animals and humans. You know, when I worked as photojournalist in sport, I tried to catch expression and emotion of each athlete, each champion. They have strong personality. Now, it is the same thing for animals. Each lion, rhino or elephant is different. They have their own character. This is what I try to do when I photograph wildlife: to express the humanity of the specie. Don’t forget that humans are animals too…
You are an activist for a few organisations, could you explain your role and how you contribute?
I think that the communication of organisations I work with – like the WWF, United Nations, GoodPlanet or Wings4Wildlife– evolves towards a certain aesthetic and artistic vision. I believe people are fed up with shocking images of destruction, poaching and deforestation – even though those images are important to share because we all must know what is happening on our planet. I don’t know if there is hope. But I do believe people want hope.
Why did you choose to photograph them in black and white?
When I started in journalism in 1994, I worked only with black and white silver films. Because of that experience, I have always had an interest in and an affinity for this technique. When I had the possibility to express my approach of wildlife, I don’t know why but I saw it only in black and white, with shadow, light and contrast. For me, animal beauty is better expressed in black and white…
Could you explain what you are trying to purvey to your audience with your photographs?
Most of my work concentrates on simple scenes of animals’ daily life. All I want to present is what animals are representing — the abundance of life on Earth. I don’t know how photography can help preserve the wild ecosystems, but I am happy when people understand that animals are just as ‘human’ as us – that they have personalities and feel emotions and experience the idea of family. Animals are persons and Humans are animals: that is surely undeniable.
Do you believe, as a global community, we are doing enough to preserve our planet?
Of course not. I think that we have two major problems: overcrowding and over-consumption.
What are your hopes for environmental and nature initiatives going into the future? What do you think needs to change?
It is important for us to have a conscience about animals, and our impact on them. We must open our minds to the fact that we are on a living planet and are just a piece of this wonder. We have to leave more space, more life, for all other species because we will not survive at their extinction. It is humanity’s absolute challenge.
What are your greatest lessons learned from your experiences?
My biggest lesson is my perception of our place on Earth. We are part of the wider family of all living beings. That’s why the name of one of my book is The Family Album of Wild Africa. I try to create a connection between animal and viewer because viewers discover a personality in the animals, and realise they have emotions too.
Which camera do you use?
I use Nikon equipment and more particularly Nikon D4 and D800. I have several lenses too as AFS 800/5.6 VR, 600/4 VR, 300/2.8 VR, 80-400 VR ED, 70-200 2.8 VR2, 24-120/4 VR. I have one monopod in gitzo carbon but I prefer to hold the camera rather than use a tripod.