At Equestrio Foundation, we love images. Beautiful ones! If you look carefully at them, they have a lot to say. They allow us to delve into realities that feel so far away from our daily lives. To live, for a few moments, in contact with nature and the animals we dearly wish to preserve. This is why, for each project that we support financially, we also organise a beautiful photo or video report made by passionate women and men, chosen for their talent and their sense of ethics in the way they work.
One of these enthusiasts is Antoine Lafay, with whom we have collaborated to highlight the work of the Co&xister centre. Let’s focus on this talented and friendly pastry chef-photographer, who is a fan of badgers…and storms. A lot of lives to live in just one!
What led you to become a wildlife photographer?
An encounter, like for many things in life! Since I was a child, I’ve lived close to nature and one day, I came face to face with a fox. This encounter literally overwhelmed me, and I simply wanted to experience this again. I’m a pastry chef by profession, but I’ve been doing photography in my free time for almost 8 years.
Do you have a favourite animal?
For sure, the badger! For some years now, I’ve had a special bond with a family of badgers in my village. I follow each litter, seeing the young ones growing into adults and becoming independent, for those who leave the family clan.
What are the specificities of wildlife photography?
It’s important to know your subjects well. And all elements must be taken into account. The weather, for example, to make sure you are discrete enough. The wind must always come from the front so that the animals do not smell us. Also, when I head to a place for a stalk, I need to go there strategically. When I find a good spot with animals, I observe them beforehand in order to define the best time to move without being seen.
What are the main constraints and challenges faced by a wildlife photographer?
The constraints are often linked to the weather. Although, if you’re a true fan, you usually go out in any weather! There are no real challenges except that of raising awareness about the decline of species in danger. And this is fundamental for me. Not everyone thinks like that, but personally, I can’t go out and take photos without having this in mind. Nature offers us so much, it is our responsibility to give back.
Have you ever been confronted with situations where animals have been disturbed?
Yes, and this is of course never the aim. But unfortunately, it does happen. Each and every wildlife photographer has already disturbed animals. But only those with good ethics learn from their mistakes.
In fact, it’s all about remembering that by the sole fact of setting foot in their natural environment, we disturb animals. Each species has more sensitive periods than others – courtship, breeding, births – and it is especially at such times that we need to be careful not to place any stress whatsoever on them. As a wildlife photographer, it is paramount for me to stay connected to the living world. It’s the animals and nature first. Then photography.
Is it becoming more challenging to photograph wild animals? With the city-lights or the disruption of walkers for example.
I’d say yes, but it all depends on the time of year and the season. Although with Covid-19, people tend to spend more time in nature, and wildlife has inevitably paid the price.
As for the impact of cities on wildlife – because of increasing urbanisation, animals have had to adapt and are becoming more present in urban and peri-urban areas. You can find badger or fox burrows in cemeteries. Attics provide shelter for rodents and nocturnal predators. Rivers are home to water birds… In fact, the city is full of wildlife… you just have to know where to look.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
If we talk about my job as a pastry chef, it’s being able to eat cakes every day, but I don’t think that’s the topic! So, as for wildlife photography, what makes me thrive is the contact with the wild, recharging my batteries in nature, and then, above all, the adrenaline followed by the emotion created by each encounter.
Your biggest challenge?
I don’t really have a challenge, but I do have many projects in mind! Otherwise, I would say: contributing to changing, at my level, the mentalities about the relationship between humans and wild animals.
The achievement you are the most proud of?
The publication of my urban series “Ruelle Sauvage” in the magazine Nat’images and a report on RTS, also on this series.
The top 3 qualities of a wildlife photographer?
Patient, sensitive, ethical.
The top 3 flaws of a wildlife photographer?
Solitary, if this is considered as a flaw!
To go on expeditions to very remote countries to experience extraordinary adventures.
Equestrio Foundation would like to say a big THANK YOU to Antoine and to all the photographers and videographers with whom we collaborate. Through their talent and sensitivity, they contribute to highlighting the commitment of our project holders and making visible the invisible.