Equals: The Humans and the Beasts in Remi Chapeaublanc’s Project
Self-taught French photographer. Lives in Paris but spends almost half of a year traveling around the world on his motorbike. Remi is a photo brand ambassador for Sony Alpha and trainer for Sony France. “Gods and Beasts” is his most famous project. Now he plans a year-long solo ride to New Zealand and back.
— The method of chiaroscuro I discovered knowing nothing about it when I was trying to make a simple portrait in the darkness. In this sense, it was my personal discovery and I experimented with it a lot to find the right balance as it is not digital but film photography. To go from France to Mongolia where Gods and Beasts was shot I took a little studio on my motorbike, in order to make photos of a studio quality photographs outdoors in the night with the use of one light and no background. Such portraits are really easy to make in a professional studio, but not in the middle of nowhere in the Mongolian forest.
Sometimes it took 2-3 days to make one portrait. I had to wait till darkness, had to explain to people what I wanted from them and this all without knowing Mongolian or Russian. Even with the help of a local kid who studied English in school it was hard to do, he had a poor command of the language.
A portrait of an eagle was the first image I took during my first stay in Mongolia and it opens the series “Gods and Beasts”. I first planned to do the series on film, but took a digital camera to do tests first. And then, a second test shoot I took I included in the series. To achieve the same result with other pictures, I decided to make all the portraits with that same setting with my digital camera.
I came to Mongolia five times, but every time was like the first. I chose this country because I knew nothing about it and learned so much when I came there. I don’t want to learn things through books or listening to somebody’s stories. That is why I travel — I go to some place I know nothing about and become a discoverer. And having a camera gives a great excuse: you’re not pottering around anymore you’re a photographer on a mission!
When I came to Mongolia for the first time, I expected to spend a lot of time in the wild, in solitude, cut off from society. But during those three months, there wasn’t even a single day when I was alone. Life was very rich in the encounters. That’s why I made this series about the animals and the people I met. Who the gods and who the beasts are — I leave this for the viewer to decide.
In my project humans and animals are equal. And as I can’t speak to an animal and know either what it feels or what it thinks, I decided to do the same with the humans I photographed. I know almost nothing about my subjects. And photographing both, I respected their privacy, remaining a stranger who knows nothing.