“I understood that the most endangered species was the human species”


On the occasion of his visit to Mons to inaugurate the exhibition LEGACY – the legacy we leave to our children, ParisMatch.be met Yann Arthus-Bertrand. We took the opportunity to talk about photography, ecology – necessarily -, but also happiness.

It is on the heights of Mons, at the foot of its belfry, that Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s photos take on their full meaning. What could be better than climbing up to admire aerial photos? For this photographer with more than 40 years of career, exhibiting his photos outdoors was obvious, and a return to his beginnings. In 2000, Yann Arthus-Bertrand enjoyed worldwide success with his work on The earth from the sky. Although he wants to exhibit his photos in museums afterwards, the establishments are not of the same opinion.

Never mind, the photographer and his team decide to exhibit the photographs outdoors, rue de Médicis in Paris. A success that he wishes to repeat today in Mons. ” It’s much better to exhibit outside, because first of all it’s free, and I like to think that there are young people there who are having a picnic at the foot of the photos. That’s what interests me. »A way of giving life to still images. Although the photographer was warned at the time against possible damage or theft, success was there. ” There is a kind of respect for nature photos, because at the end of the day, it’s photos of our house that are there.

Yann Arthus-Bertrand:
Grand Prismatic hot spring, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, United States. © Yann Arthus-Bertrand

From his beginnings, Yann Arthus-Bertrand noticed the beauty of “our house” and moved towards aerial photography. ” At that time, we didn’t have the air world on our phone. Today on your phone you have everything with Google Earth. The air was something very unique. A difference that makes its strength. With 3.5 million copies sold, The earth from the sky is the best-selling illustrated book in history. Breathtaking photos, and a vision of the world like you’ve never seen before.

Photographing the Earth to show its fragility

For him, aerial photography is made up of certain unforeseen events. As he leaves for Sudan to photograph a machine rusting for 40 years in a canal, he comes across women collecting grass. A daily gesture for these women which particularly affects the photographer. ” In aerial photography, luck is very important. That is to say, we have objectives, but we know very well that what we are going to photograph is going to be completely different.

Yann Arthus-Bertrand:
Fieldwork, near Bor, Jonglei state, South Sudan. © Yann Arthus-Bertrand

In addition to capturing the beauty of the Earth, Yann Arthus-Bertrand also discovers the fragility of our planet. ” This work on The earth from the sky completely transformed me. I had become aware, in part, of the problems of the Earth and of a fairly basic ecology, and I came to an ecology where I understood that the most endangered species was the human race. »By photographing the world, Yann Arthus-Bertrand realizes the impact of Man on the environment. A pollution visible from the sky, but which, strangely, happens to be “ very graphic On the pictures. ” The Earth is still an incredible work of art. What is quite astonishing is that the pollution is very beautiful, and very interesting… it is even a misunderstanding somewhere. Of course, we see deforestation, but we see it much more in satellite than in helicopter. For the photographer, the interest of his work is not only found in the beauty of the world. His photos mainly deal with different themes, such as civilian losses in armed conflicts, refugees, pesticides in agriculture, or even ecological inconsistencies (cultivating in the desert). ” Without information, the photos have no interest.

“I wanted to give more meaning to my work”

Only here, Yann Arthus-Bertrand does not want to be a simple additional witness to environmental problems, and he then chooses to really get involved. ” I loved this job (of photographer, editor’s note) where I did a lot of things, but I needed, as I’m quite green, convictions. Above all, I wanted to give more meaning to my work. In 2005, he created the GoodPlanet foundation to raise public awareness of environmental protection, and created a program to offset the CO2 emissions generated by his work as a photographer. “JI realize around me that there are many people who want to get involved, who want to understand … A necessary awareness that does not date from yesterday, but which is unfortunately not enough according to him. “ It’s not enough but hey, you have to be content with what you have and not give up. There is no other thing to do but continue, there is no other solution.

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Admiring Greta Thunberg, he “ would like all the young people to be on the streets, hundreds of millions, and the schools to be empty “. However, ecological commitment is not reserved for new generations. ” I think we should not ask young people to bear the brunt of what we have done. We should not just ask young people to change the world, that would be very dishonest, but the more it goes, the stronger the signs will be. For him, everyone must be aware of this climate emergency, although the path is not always easy. ” Everything you do today to save carbon will only have an effect in 20 years. It’s 2040 far away. You really need a real will, a very strong awareness to do it in spite of everything.

What I would like is for change to happen under the pressure of common sense, and not under the pressure of obligation

Of course, it’s not taking a shower instead of taking a bath that will change much, we understand that it was much more serious than that today, but at least let’s start with the basic . There are still eight billion inhabitants on Earth, if there are a few billion doing the basics, we change the world. For him, all is not a lost cause. ” What I would like is for change to come under the pressure of common sense, and not under the pressure of obligation.

Yann Arthus-Bertrand:
River near Maelifellssandur, Myrdalsjökull region in Iceland. © Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Used to taking pictures in the air, Yann Arthus-Bertrand keeps his feet on the ground and meets nearly 2,000 people for his documentary Human. Testimonies that have deeply marked the director. ” You can’t do a two hour interview with someone without suffering, crying, laughing with her. I am a committed photographer, I do not take a step back on this. Looking at the images of Human, how many times have I cried while listening to all this. I cry more and more as I get older [rigole], it must be admitted, I am more and more sensitive.

Although scientists’ predictions are most worrying, this lifelong environmentalist wants to keep hope. ” To be optimistic about today’s numbers is to be very stupid. But now to live is to be optimistic. Every day to enjoy. Because life is an incredible gift. In Human, there is a russian who says “To be alive is to be happy”. And when you’re like me at 74, and you’re getting closer to the final moment, I think it’s important to realize that being alive is something amazing.


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