Photo: © Laurent Baheux
“Some photographers take reality… and impose the domination of their own thought and spirit. Others come before reality more tenderly and a photograph to them is an instrument of love and revelation.” – Ansel Adams
For French wildlife photographer Laurent Baheux, the sentiment of legendary artist Ansel Adams’ looms large. For the last two decades Laurent has been travelling the world, from the plains of Sub Saharan Africa to the frigid polar caps in the Arctic, capturing the raw, natural beauty of some of our world’s most iconic animals on film. His work was born out of and remains an act of love, a process of finding beauty in each moment whether that be a majestic lion embodying his unwavering strength or a simple hare resting beneath a tree.
“To me the subject is not the most important part when composing a photograph. It’s the beauty of a particular moment,” explained Laurent. “All animals are equally important.”
The award-winning photographer was following a different path before a gentle nudge from a friend catapulted his wildlife images into the public eye. Three decades ago Laurent was working as a journalist when he was asked to take images for the newspaper he was with. He began with sports photography, spending fifteen years documenting the world’s largest sporting events from the Olympic Games to the World Cup, but the lifestyle was wearing him thin. He needed a change.
“I went to Africa to breathe again. I was sick of how crowds behaved in stadiums and wanted to explore photography beyond people and away from the city, away from this humancentric world.”
As a child Laurent had dreamed of visiting Africa and seeing the big mammals firsthand. In 2002 he made it a reality, although he didn’t share any images of his animal encounters for five years. That changed in 2007 when a friend convinced him to showcase some of the shots at an event in the South of France.
At first Laurent was surprised by the intensity of emotions people expressed while viewing his images. His intention, to capture the moment when an animal is at its most charismatic and beautiful, was clearly coming through in his work. His photos were resonating. This was Laurent’s tipping point, when he realized he had to pursue this passion beyond a hobby.
While Laurent eventually left his sports photography career behind, lessons learned at the newspaper have heavily influenced his work, especially when it comes to shooting only in black and white. Given that the images in the paper appeared in grayscale, Laurent honed his skills in this medium before applying it to animals. However the reason he still prefers no colour extends beyond his background.
“Using black and white simplifies an image and the emotions around it. It removes distraction and offers the viewer a clean and direct perspective of a moment.”
Laurent has always honoured natural habitats by using long lenses, to avoid disturbing the wildlife. His work and passion has extended to making sure future generations can enjoy the world’s wildlife too. In 2013, Laurent became an United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Goodwill Ambassador for the anti-poaching initiative and since then his work has been used to help several environmental organisations, like World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and GoodPlanet Foundation, advocate for the animals he deeply respects.
“Art can help people realise the beauty of nature and that animals need to be respected. In my work I portray animals as individuals rather than as part of a larger species. This allows people to help identify with the animals on a personal level. Sometimes the images even remind them of people in their family. This helps change people’s perspective and helps them to care more for animals.”
Beauty Disrupted’s true respect for animals and valuing the importance of biodiversity are what initially stood out to Laurent.
“Beyond the premium quality of the product it was Beauty Disrupted’s philosophy, the value and ethos of the company that got me interested in them. They show that it is possible to have a respectful relationship to the world even if you’re running a business. The company participates in the much needed intellectual revolution of acting with respect within the ecosystem.”
Beauty Disrupted carefully considers the impact of its consciously-crafted, gender-neutral beauty bars at every level from production to distribution and also donates 20% of profits to non-profit organisations that protect the planet and combat climate change.
Laurent’s stirring animal images feature in books, publications, exhibitions, conferences and galleries around the world. The wild beauty he encapsulates on film reminds us of how incredible our world is. Through the love, tenderness, and reverence he shows in capturing the majestic nature of all his subjects he reminds us of the importance of all beings on this earth.