I’ve been a fan of photography as far back as I can remember, and it could have been my metier had I been born later, into the age of digital and affordable photography. As an admirer of others’ works, among my favourite photographers are Annie Leibovitz, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Georgia O’Keeffe (yes, she was a photographer too).
I can now add to this list Yann Arthus-Bertrand, having recently discovered his work in Nice. This French-born photographer and film director is known for his environmental and socially conscious works, including the films Human (2015), Woman (2019) and Legacy (2021).
The exhibit I saw was indoors at the Musée de la Photographie and outdoors in a public square and the popular Promenade du Paillon – a public park in the city centre. As art in public spaces has long been the preserve of sculptors and architects, I was delighted to see visual art’s poor cousin photography in these open spaces for all to experience.
I was most struck by Arthus-Bertrand’s aerial photos taken all over the world. It’s hard to summarise them as they depict scenes as eclectic as life itself. Some of these aerial shots verged on optical illusions, appearing at first to be one thing, but revealed to be something else upon close inspection. Whether capturing the wonders of the natural world or freezing in time the spectrum of poverty and human labour, the images hold an aesthetic as haunting as they are enjoyable. I did feel a slight discomfort in marvelling at the beautiful colours and boxy shapes of a favela in Sao Paulo as seen from the air.
When talking about art, images support the words. I recommend visiting Arthus-Bertrand’s website or doing a search for him on Pinterest, where his fans have pinned hundreds of his photos. On this note, I close on the words of Arthus-Bertrand, who like many of us wanted one career, but ended up doing something else:
I wanted to be a scientist. I did a thesis on lions. But I realised photography can show things writing can’t. Lions were my professors of photography.