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Lens on Life: Yann Arthus-Bertrand

May 3, 2010

Yann Arthus-Bertrand: Heart in Voh, New Caledonia, France.

If you don’t know him by name, you likely know him by image. Yann Arthus-Bertrand is a French photographer who has been interested in the Earth and Nature from an early age. In 1994 Arthus-Bertrand started a thorough study on the state of the Earth sponsored by UNESCO. As part of the study, he made a picture inventory of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, taken from helicopters and hot-air balloons. The book from this project, Earth from Above (‘la Terre vue du ciel’) sold over 3 million copies and was translated into 24 languages.

In a 2007 interview in The Guardian, Bertrand comments:

After more than 15 years working on The Earth From the Air project, I still have the impression that I’m photographing life, not landscapes. Whether you’re taking a close-up portrait or an aerial picture, it’s all about life.

Shooting a landscape is like shooting a face: there’s always a story behind what at first just appears to be pretty.

Last year he turned his lens to those faces in 6 Billion Others, in which 6 directors traveled the world conducting over 5,000 interviews in which they asked s0me 40 questions (What have you learnt from your parents? What do you want to pass on to your children? What difficult circumstances have you been through? What does love mean to you?) in order to find out what separates and what unites us.

His work beautifully reminds us not only of the diversity of human experience but also of its commonalities.  His most recent film, Home, looks like it is a must-watch for all fans of the Planet Earth series.

What does Arthus-Bertrand want to pass on to his children?

I have one more dream: I would like to see photography being taught like spelling or maths to children in schools.

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