French wildlife photographer, Laurent Baheux, born in 1970 in Poitiers France, began his career working at a local newspaper. He “wasn’t supposed to be a photographer” but all that changed when his editor gave him an assignment that would spark a career in photography, wildlife and art. This career change has taken him to various locations across the globe. Laurent has traveled to Africa, the Arctic, and multiple locations in the United States. His artistic career took off after his success in the 2007 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, more specifically, in the Creative Visions of Nature category. Baheux has spent nearly 15 years traveling to distinct areas around the world where the wildlife roam free to provide viewers with real, raw, beauty. He has developed several pieces that have moved the public in more ways than one.
He is known globally for his published works of black and white wildlife photography. Through his photography he has developed relationships with wildlife organizations, has become an activist for these organizations, holds features in numerous international galleries, has published several books and possesses a full list of awards and accolades.
Given the opportunity to interview Baheux we delved into details of his life, career, and plans for the future. What we learned: Baheux is a photographer of experience and his work illustrates this. Nothing he takes is posed, anticipated, or prepared for; his images are genuine and authentic wildlife moments.
When did you realize that photography would be the career for you?
I was not supposed to become a photographer. I started in photography while I was working for a local daily newspaper in Poitiers. 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.
When/where did you begin your career as a wildlife photographer? Tell us about your transition from photojournalist to wildlife photographer.
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 a 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. Five years later, with my first photo exhibition, I saw something in the public’s look that I had never seen before: people were moved, they were discovering a personality in these animals, as well as emotions. All that has changed my life both professionally and personally.
Why have you made wildlife photography your primary focus?
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 picture in the wild: may be that is something like confidence and concentration, a tranquil state of body and mind.
You also manage to primarily create works in black and white, is there any particular reason why?
Black and white is the best medium to express the solitary emotion and vitality of wildlife. 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. Duotone allows me to better capture the magnificence of their attitudes, their vividness and their emotions
Of all the animals that you have taken photos of, which is your favorite? 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.
In your career as a wildlife photographer, do you have a memorable moment that stands out above the rest?
I do have a memorable anecdote about a photo I took of a young zebra jumping over an adult one.
It was in 2007 in the Ngorongoro Crater, in the North of Tanzania. The weather wasn’t too hot. My experienced Kenyan driver Morris and I were moving slowly towards a small herd of zebras. Nothing to report save for a young zebra who was a little excited and running around the adults.
I followed him with my camera as he climbed up a slope. Suddenly, he found himself behind his mother. I was quite surprised but was completely concentrating on tracking him. Which of course meant I tripped!
The jump wasn’t usual behavior. It’s rare. Morris, who observed the entire scene, was euphoric. “Lawrence, do you have it? Do you have it?” In his 20 years working in the bush, he had never seen that.
I had the shot, and it was one I’d never imagined taking. Nature is generous, and I’m delighted she offered me this rare moment. That experience only strengthened my conviction to never prepare my shots. I don’t sit and wait for a picture. I prefer to be guided by luck, and be inspired by the ever-changing spectacle of wildlife.
Your photos have been used within various environmental organizations, tell us a bit about that.
I think that the communication of organisations I work with – like the WWF, United Nations, GoodPlanet, Cheetah for Ever 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.
Has your work evolved since having begun working with these organizations?
I don’t think so.
What advice would you give to young aspiring photojournalists/photographers?
Work, work, work… Technique, skill and equipment all come later. Work is the essence of photography. If you put in the work, you’ll develop.
Moving forward, what are your plans for the future? Are there any projects you are promoting?
Nature is my principal source of inspiration. In order to show its power from another angle, I have started taking wildlife pictures in Arctic and landscapes pictures in United States. I hope people love it.
One of the more recent exhibits Baheux has been featured in was the Keiyo art gallery event that was presented in Miami’s Art Basel.
He also recently published his latest book entitled, “The Family Album of Wild Africa“, featuring his most moving works. The photos are incredible. His site offers the option of ordering your very own personalized signed copy. Visit www.laurentbaheux.com to purchase your copy today!