This spring, I travelled to Bulgaria’s idyllically-named Valley of Roses. On assignment as photographer for Aramco World magazine, I was to make portraits and a reportage. Yet, as in the South of France, Bulgaria’s climate was out of kilter this year, and what should have been a straightforward assignment about growing Damascus roses to produce rose oil, turned out to be a challenging mission indeed.
It is an invitation that I will treasure for a long time. Proposed not as a photographer, but as a jurist, I had been welcomed to attend the prestigious biennial Provence Cheesemaking Contest to judge the quality of the very best cheeses in the South of France. It was no small honor to be part of the judging process. Cheese is one of the pillars of French gastronomic culture and this event would select and bestow recognition on the region’s very finest cheese-makers.
Editorial photographers’ schedules often depend on their subjects’, and my alarm was set for 04.00 the day I made a reportage about Frédéric Roy. A baker in Nice, Frédéric is known in France and beyond for his crusade to save the traditional, hand-made, French butter croissant from extinction. Wizz Air’s in-flight magazine dedicated a 9-page cover feature to him this month, and I was invited to Frédéric’s bakery to capture all the stages of his croissant-making, and to take his portrait.
Contes, in the hills above Nice, is the last town on the French Riviera with a communist party mayor. As photographer, I visited Contes for the first time to illustrate an article about the current state of the left-wing vote in France in the run-up to the 2022 presidential elections. As the Die Zeit writer interviewed (and I made portraits of) several left-wing residents, it became apparent that disillusionment and contradictions are the order of the day.
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.
One of the things I love about being a photographer is the opportunity for travel, both in France and beyond, and it was an assignment that introduced me to the Périgord region. Famed for its gastronomy and history, the Périgord is home to the star of the Chief Bruno detective novels – and its creator, Martin Walker. Sent by the New York Times to take photos for an article about Le Périgord through Bruno’s eyes, I discovered a fine line between fact and fiction, and tasted some gourmet dishes and wine along the way…
I had a trip planned last weekend, but as soon I got a call about this Saturday night assignment, I knew that I would move mountains to make it possible. It had it all: creativity, a giant laser, a middle of the night rendez-vous, an international space artist and a first of its kind event worldwide. How could a photographer possibly refuse? It would doubtless be the closest I’d ever get to space travel.
Monaco Grand Prix: the name alone conjures images of champagne, speedy cars, big money and dashing, daring drivers. This May, under the bright French Riviera sunshine, I captured all this and more, on an unusual and privileged event photographer commission. However, most of the exclusive photos that I took behind the scenes of the race can never be shown.
Wine and France. The two just go together. Le vin is of ultimate importance to the French economy, its way of life, history, gastronomy and, quite simply, to a sense of Frenchness. Yet the very nature of many established wines is under threat today. Global warming, and the slow increase in the temperature of the planet, is starting to make its presence felt in France’s vineyards. The impact on winemakers could shake the French wine industry to its core. This summer, Stern magazine, sent me as photographer, and journalist Marc, to the Languedoc and Rhône, two of France’s biggest – & hottest – wine-growing regions, to investigate.
A few weeks before hoards of movie buffs, journalists and photographers arrive in the South of France for its annual film festival, Cannes plays host to another huge crowd at the world’s leading property trade fair, MIPIM. Monocle magazine commissions me regularly as photographer to make a reportage of this vast urban development event, but this year, the editorial direction had changed…