I am lucky to have traveled to some truly amazing places in my life. It started when I was 15, when I joined a trip to Greece with my history class and teacher, in order to discover the culture of the ancient Greek civilization. I remember very intensely how excited I was about the whole trip, and to leave France for the first time in order to go abroad… It was such an adventure!
A couple of years later, I traveled to Egypt for a family vacation. We were amazed at the beauty of the pyramids and blown away by the splendor of the ancient Egyptian civilization. As I grew older, I had the chance to visit an increasing number of countries, either with family, school, friends or girlfriend.
Studying abroad was the next logical step: the energy of New York City
This need for exploration further became clear to me when I decided to study abroad at Columbia University in New York, in 2004 and 2005. I was enrolled in a Master’s degree in Engineering at Ecole Centrale de Lyon in France, as I had chosen to study in New York for one year as a visiting student to complete a dual degree. I already loved New York, and felt the desire to return there and spend more time exploring, in order to become truly familiar with this impressive jungle. I wanted to know my way around, be able to call it home, and know it inside out, or “comme ma poche” as we say in French.
I was really struck by what I saw and experienced as a New Yorker, having the time to explore for an entire year. I felt an energy, a sort of communion between man, concrete and glass, a symbiosis between those who lived in the City and the style that they brought to this environment and its amazing architecture.
During that year, I took tons of pictures, I was literally outside shooting day or night, rain or snow (had some painful experiences photographing by -20°C with an Olympus OM-10 film camera with frozen hair (literally) and fingers!)
The following year, I enrolled at the University of Cambridge for another Master’s degree, and lived in England. Things were starting to take shape. Then I started working as a consultant and kept on traveling, every time I could: Malta, Italy, Kenya, Sweden, Mexico, Brazil…
Making Travel a reality, and a profession…
After a few years, I realized that I needed to get away from the computer, the virtual production, be it consulting or marketing, and explore the world some more, in order to create something tangible with my hands.
Becoming a photographer seemed like the perfect way to do that. I realized that as an engineer I had probably paid more attention to how things worked, how they were made, but I felt that I had to reconnect to that human and more emotional side of me, and understand how people lived in other parts of the world.
I quit my job in the fall of 2009 and went on a trip to Asia with a close friend. I remember very clearly a particular night in Laos, on an island in the 4000 Islands area. As I was laying in bed under the mosquito net in my wooden hut, in the middle of the night, still awake, I realized that I needed to go at the contact of people out there in the world, explore our planet and experience what they lived, how they thought. I didn’t want to continue hiding behind my computer screen anymore, and it struck me that seeing the world with this generosity was the only way for me to become the person I wanted to be.
I was impressed by the work of Sebastião Salgado at the time. His life and work immensely inspired me. Throughout his projects, he had seen many things, cultures, people and met amazing human beings (sometimes in dire conditions; I didn’t say this would always be all glamour and party). I believe this is what shapes us as human beings, what makes us more generous and allows us to care about others. I wanted to grow in this direction.
I also love foreign languages. I speak several and enjoy it a lot because I truly love the feeling of connection you can get with people when you speak their language. It is the best way to understand the culture.
Why travel has stuck with me since
I have kept on travelling since, even more than before. I am a physical and tactile person, I need to be in the places to understand them, and feel their vibration. This is maybe why I need to travel, and see people, rather than call them or email them, in order to go and experience things at their origin.
A huge part of my heart goes in particular to three occasions when I traveled to the other side of Earth in order to reunite with the one I loved. Those travels have shaped most of my life and career. They have reinforced my love of travel, and shaped who I am so much…
I have now reached the count of 38 countries, and I am happy that this is only the beginning.
Every new trip is an awakening, and such a great way to remember how short-sighted we are sometimes, worrying about minor problems, while the world keeps spinning and other issues other people experience to survive are far more important.
Here is a map of the countries and places I have visited so far :
In retrospect, I think I chose photography in order to see the world above all other reasons, and that photography is second to the desire to understand our planet and people. I realize I could probably also be a scientist doing scientific expeditions throughout the world…
In the end, actually care more about seeing the world, and meeting people, sharing their culture, than being a photographer. If I can take pictures while also experiencing this human connection, good. If not, no problem. In any case, it is also caring about your subject and making a genuine connection that makes a good photograph. I don’t like to say I “take” photos, but rather intend to “make” portraits, and feel this connection, together with the person.
As someone once said: “The best portraits are not something you take but are given by the subject, in a moment they choose to share with you.”
I also travel to feel empathy for the world
Connecting to people and to the planet through travel, opening our eyes to how simple life can be, is more important for me than ever. By doing this, the minor issues that sometimes prevent us to experience happiness just seem to fade away. Happiness can be pretty simple after all. I think it puts people and human beings first (or even better, one particular person you love) before everything else, before all the consumerist habits or materialistic aspects we have developed over the years.
I believe feeling this empathy for the world is the only way we can get out of this current environmental crisis we are in the middle of (more on this soon).
The most eye-opening experiences were maybe in Africa, or in Asia, in places where people were so poor that I could feel no connection whatsoever with our current societal models, in the daily life. It was not just differences that could be listed. It was a totally different paradigm: when human life doesn’t have a price as high as we put on it in our western cultures, when survival and food are the only thing that matters. Those travels (for instance in The Gambia where I was last week) are truly sobering.
I don’t see stopping traveling anytime soon. This year I have embarked on a longer road trip in Latin America, and loved it. But, true enough, travelling also has its downsides… after 6 months of travelling this year, I feel the need to rest and stay put for a bit now. I have always had this dual relationship with travels, and my best love stories have been linked to travel, or involved crossing the planet, for good, or for bad…
What about you? What is your relationship to travel? What do you like (or dislike) about it? Do you get to better feel this empathy for our planet and other human beings when you travel?