Film directors who are passionate about wildlife conservation have a visually creative and emotional way of engaging people when storytelling, and always with the hope that it will inspire audiences to make change. Adrien Favre, a photographer and director, does so with flair, subtlety and beautiful direction of photography that pulls on heartstrings, making it easy to empathise with the struggles of our fellow animals. His latest short film, Je Suis Le Sauvage, speaks of the plight of the fast disappearing wolves of France and is currently running in the Nikon Film Festival.
I catch up with Adrien to chat about his insights on wildlife conservation, photography and film.
Through your work, it’s clear that you have a deep respect and passion for animals. How did your wildlife film and photography journey come about? I grew up in the city, in Paris precisely, and I did not know much about nature. Since I was little, I loved animals, but I never thought of doing it as a job. In December 2014, I went to India with an NGO to make a film about tiger protection. This is where I saw wildlife for the first time, which was the beginning of the adventure.
During my travel in India, I learned that there were 100,000 tigers in the early 20th century and only 3,500 left today. It was a terrible shock for me, and an awakening. At this moment I decided to try to contribute towards helping nature.
With the advancement of technology, photography and film are becoming more accessible and shareable by the day. Where do you see the current and future state of conservation photography and film? I think the digital era is a good thing because it has made the video and the photo more accessible to many people. Thanks to photography we can raise awareness, and I think images are stronger than words. I always say, "I take pictures to show the beauty of nature, but especially its fragility."
Your portfolio incorporates a mix of still photography and film- what’s some of the gear that you would use for your varied work? I use Canon equipment, and today I have a 1DX Mark 2 which is as good for photography as it is for video, and perfect for my use. I also use a 600 mm lens.
Your message against culling wildlife to manage populations comes through strongly in your short films. How did your view on this matter come about? I find it horrible that man wants to kill everything in order to “regulate”. A world shaped by human needs alone is a heresy because it is to forget that each animal is important to the ecosystem and that nature is in perfect equilibrium. Only the human has disrupted it.
Many conservationists from other schools of thought, however, believe that culling is the most efficient and effective way of managing populations. What do you believe are the best alternatives to culling?
The best alternative to culling is to restore sacred ecosystems, to rethink our civilisations in relation to nature. Large predators are enormously important. We must give less space to livestock and more to wildlife. This world is only designed for man and it's terrible because we are not alone on this Earth. We often forget that if our ecosystems collapse, humans will disappear. It is paramount that we leave room for wildlife.
The planet’s wildlife appears to be dwindling by the year, and we’re currently undergoing the sixth mass extinction crisis. While much of the charismatic megafauna is in the spotlight, many others are relatively underrepresented in the media, such as wolves. Why do you believe this particular situation with wolves deserves attention, and what do you hope to achieve with this film? 58% of wildlife has disappeared in 40 years, and it's a disaster. The problem of the wolf is important to us in France, because they disappeared for 75 years, and then came back naturally from Italy 25 years ago. They’re protected at the European level by the Bern Convention, and yet for some years, 40 wolves are killed every year under the pressure of lobbying for breeding, hunting and agriculture.
In France, the shepherds have lost the ancestral knowledge of herds, and they do not want the wolf, but the wolf is part of our historical and natural heritage.
There are only 11,000 wolves in Europe and 360 in France. It is critical that we stop these shots. It isn’t right to kill everything that goes against our interests.
How optimistic are you that the future generations will better take care of the planet, and what do you think needs to be done? Sometimes I'm not very optimistic because I find that younger generations are disconnected from nature and reality. We live in such individualistic and demanding societies. People are lost in overconsumption. They are not aware that every gesture of their daily lives has an impact on the health of the planet. Schools must teach courses on nature, the environment, animals, ethology. Respect for nature is essential because it is our mother.