Thanks to Swiss magazine Die Weltwoche, I recently found myself on the trail of Napoleon. As photographer, I travelled with the editor and writer to Grasse, high above the French Riviera, to make the portrait of Lucas Albers, a Swiss citizen who’s just purchased a piece of Napoleonic France. The remote Plateau de Napoleon, soon destined to host Albers’s contemporary arts centre, was the spot that Napoleon chose to camp and gather his troops in 1815 after escaping from exile.
The Baudet de Poitou is the oldest race of donkey in France, yet only 300 are left worldwide. I was assigned as photographer to make the portrait of a Provence-based British couple who are doing their bit to save the breed from extinction. Back in the 18th century, tens of thousands of Baudet de Poitou were sold annually. Yet it wasn’t for their skills at farm work or cart-pulling that these donkeys were in great demand. No, they were bred, quite simply, to breed.
Le Tour de France has begun! Sam Bennett held the coveted title of top sprinter last year, and I was the photographer chosen to shoot a cover portrait of him in Monaco for magazine Procycling recently. Le Tour’s top sprinter wears a green vest, and, as Sam is from the Emerald Isle, the editor wasn’t going to miss out on a strong green theme for the cover design. Victory green smoke bombs? Why not…
Monaco is known for its prestigious Grand Prix, but the principality also hosts Formula E events. I was commissioned as photographer recently by Belgian magazine Sabato to make a portrait of Stoffel Vandoorne, a leading driver in Formula E, the clean energy motorsport that’s hot on the heels of Formula One. Stoffel races electric cars that go at breathtaking speeds of up to 280 km/hour, but when he’s not working, he prefers to ride a bike.
Today is the opening day of the photography event Fotofestival Nüernberg. I’m delighted to be one of the photographers invited to show work there and, though travel from the South of France to be there in person is not possible at this time, the event is bravely ahead despite Covid. In response to the festival’s theme, ‘Facing Reality’, I made a series of environmental portraits of inhabitants of a small town in Provence – with a twist. Viewing the world as seen by the subject within their portrait, and incorporating reflections seen in sheets of glass they hold, my work illustrates how our internal narratives colour our perceptions of our surroundings.
I last photographed Lizzie Deignan in 2017, a cover portrait for the Guardian Weekend magazine. This spring, I returned to Monaco, where she lives, this time as photographer for Cyclist magazine. A racing cyclist, Lizzie is currently the top ranked rider in the world and is a prominent figure pushing forward professional women’s cycling. We both rose to the challenge of doing an environmental portrait shoot during the Covid lockdown and, so doing, fittingly celebrated another International Women’s Day together.
Svalbard, 1000 km north of Norway, could not be any more different from the South of France. As photographer and writer, I was privileged, a few years ago, to be invited to join a polar expedition cruise along its western coast. The landscapes were unfamiliar, harsh and striking, and I witnessed, under an eerie sun that never sets, the beauty of glaciers and the incredible adaptability of people and nature to extreme conditions. I also learned that while melting ice leads to catastrophe, it can also lead to hidden treasures – and inspire an extraordinary use of flags.
The South of France was particularly bleak and wintry when Die Zeit sent their journalist and me, photographer, on a journey across Provence to make a portrait of France’s leading ecofeminist researcher, Émilie Hache. Our destination was the small town of Die, a 4 ½ hour drive from Nice, and my preparation for this assignment involved, besides photography, finding out what ecofeminism meant.
It was a privilege to photograph Sara Hannig Nour, founder of a flagship organic food company, in Egypt recently. Corporate portraits (for PR & marketing) and lifestyle photography (to illustrate her upcoming cookery book) were the order of the day, and we prepared stacks of fresh, organic produce from the farm to turn her bright, white kitchen into a riot of colour. Swiss-born Sara’s dedication to caring for the planet, fair trade and healthy living – along with extraordinary work and determination – make her an inspiration. Indeed, Sara has not gone unnoticed: in 2017, she won Cartier’s prestigious Women’s Initiative Award.
French magazine Le Point assigned me as photographer to make a portrait of the CEO of H2O Asset Management at his office in Monaco last month. Bruno Crastes’s reputation in the finance world precedes him: 5 years ago he was named the best bond manager in the world. Yet since this summer, Bruno and his high-risk hedge fund firm have been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.