The Rio Earth Summit in 1992 changed my life completely, turning me into an activist. From the air, you see things you can’t see from the ground – you really understand the impact of man, even in a place you know well. My work is meant to convince people we can no longer live like this.
I’m not an expert when it comes to technology, but what changed things for me was autofocus. I used to have to throw away half my pictures because it was so difficult to get the focus right.
The whole world is determined by trade – which is really the blood of the world. The driving force is everyone’s desire to have a better life. How? By consuming. For countries, the ‘Holy Grail’ is economic growth.
No one is an environmentalist by birth. It is only your path, your life, your travels that awaken you.
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 professor of photography.
An image of the Earth, its landscapes, directly affects people. The beauty of the Earth creates enormous emotion, and through that emotion, you can transmit knowledge and raise consciousness.
I always take hundreds and hundreds of pictures. I used to work for ‘National Geographic,’ and they gave us a lot of film.
I learned to be a hot-air balloon pilot to take tourists over the Masai Mara Reserve in order to earn some money and finance the work I was doing with my wife, Anne. We were studying the life of a family of lions for more than two years. Taking pictures was a way to capture information we could not put in words.
The key of ‘The Earth from Above,’ and of ‘Home’ is to show the beauty of the planet, and thereby to promote love for it.
The West has become the world model; developing countries are dreaming of living like us, which is impossible. They should reject our model, because it is not sustainable. Developing countries should even give us the example, but unfortunately that’s not what happens.
One fifth of human kind depend on fish to live. Today now 70 percent of the fish stock are over-exploited. According to FAO if we don’t change our system of fishing the main sea resources will be gone in 2050. We don’t want to believe what we know.
For nearly two years, I was flying above the planet with my camera. I knew straight away that this was something important to do, just at this moment, a portrait of the planet for the millennium year. I worked in 80 countries, fighting for money all the time.
I never lose an opportunity to speak about my obsession: humankind and the environment.
To have success in your professional life is not so hard. To succeed as a man is more difficult.
After Hurricane Katrina, over New Orleans, my helicopter crashed and the pilot and I were only saved because we fell on the roof of a flooded house that absorbed the shock. When the helicopter was spiraling downward out of control, I didn’t expect to survive at all.
The lions taught me photography. They taught me patience and the sense of beauty, a beauty that penetrates you.
Our children think our world will end. It’s a tragic thing. Adults don’t think that. They don’t see that we are eating the planet. But we are. If you take all the biomass of vertebrates on the planet, 98% are men and their domestic animals. All the wild animals in the world make up only 2%.
The fact is that seven per cent of the global population emits 50 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, and the proportions are the same for the use of energy and raw materials, meat, wood, etc. Simply put, an infinitesimal minority consumes the most and imposes damage on the overwhelming majority, while asking it to change.
There is something very utopian about what I do. But utopia is nothing more than a truth that the world is not yet ready to hear.
For me, an aerial picture is no different than a close-up portrait. It’s a question of framing and angle. Helicopters are great for that. But I’ve also used planes. Of course, I always have a harness.