One day, just before Christmas in 2015, my husband came home with a book under his arms, called Arctic.. it showed the most beautiful photographs of wildlife in the most remote hostile places of our world ! He said he had gone to 3 different libraries in town, spent there his whole afternoon, and he has picked 1 book, that was outstanding ! We fell straight in love with it’s author, who couldn’t translate better the sheer silence, the sheer cold, the sheer wildlife, the sheer nature he encounters in these places. His name is Vincent Munier, and we are more than happy to present you this man, this amazing photographer, who spends weeks and month in places with less than 30 degrees, and who sometimes doesn’t even take the picture, when the moment is so precious, so unique, so sacred, while encountering these beauties. So proud to have Vincent’s story in our first 7sky.life Book…
Text: By Vincent Munier
I have been very fortunate and had a lucky star. Our path in life often takes shape through choices and encounters. One can quickly go in opposite directions. I grew up close to the forest and since a very young age, I have been learning to live outside: to bivouac under the stars, build huts in the trees and mills in the streams, go canoeing, climbing, pick mushrooms, recognize the song of birds… My parents have always been sensitive to a sense of wonder regarding simple and natural things. With my brother and my sister, we have been immersed in this environment. Our destiny would have certainly been different if we had grown up in town. Our parents thus instilled in us the notion of respect towards nature. It is especially my father, a passionate naturalist, who transmitted me his passion for the observation of animals in our home region of the Vosges. Until today, he still protects the old forests filled with mystery, magic and also where a vegetal and animal diversity abounds… He has been working a lot for that and continues to protect those too rare spaces.
And he also taught me how to penetrate the forest on tiptoe, as if we were entering a cathedral. Not to speak loud, never put oneself forward, hide so that things as they are may be offered to you. And then, we can sometimes discover there majestuous animals. I was twelve years old when my father put my first camera into my hands. To me, photography was an extraordinary tool allowing me to freeze the moment. Those privileged moments that are offered to us. A feeling of suspended time. A bit like freezing a dream, a fleeting vision…
I have lived close to forests since I was a kid. And my childhood dreams have also been nourished by the stories of explorers and naturalists… I remain a dreamer who wonders at a simple small fox. But I also enjoy confronting myself with hostile places in which man is not the master. I like traveling through those territories without imposing myself, trying to put myself at the level of the photographed animal. It is important in my approach. The animals which survive intense cold and extreme conditions fascinate me and I like this feeling of adventure, those strong and multiplied sensations, the power of a thousand fears, anguishes and wonders… There is always a small dose of anguish in me. I also feel fragile and it is obviously soothing to find one’s connection with nature again. I must admit that the more time passes by, the less I feel comfortable in our society. We experience a certain mediocrity in it, without being aware of it. Wild nature is the one to be direct! We do not cheat facing it.
In our education with children, we often forget about the teaching of simple gestures, such as walking bare feet, putting our hands in the ground, using all our senses. It is not an easy thing to live from one’s passion. Some will say it is luck but also a paradox. At the professional level, I sometimes have the feeling that I lack some degree of ambition and that I am unable to project myself into the future. I live a simple and uncalculated life. Everything takes place gradually. Along with encounters, emotions, travels… I am just trying to transmit my emotions through images. To affect people in front of the beauty of natural elements; a simple and accessible beauty has the power to move us.
My photos have something zen, a bit minimalist in them. In my pictures, I reveal an uncalculated, personal, simple look. I also like writing and painting.
I went through important revelations and I had a big slap in my face in the middle of the years 2000, in Kamtchatka in the Russian Far-East. Until 1994, this peninsula remained strictly forbidden to foreigners. My encounter with nomads living in total harmony with animals and nature in this such protected place has been a milestone in my photographic path. And there, I experienced magnificent encounters with bears. I am fascinated by great predators. Fascinated to be able to observe them in their natural habitat where man did not exterminate them out of hegemony and self-centredness. A forest does not have the same magic without the presence of great predators such as wolves, bears, lynx.
My greatest encounter and one of the strongest moments of my life was with white wolves at the ends of the earth: on Ellesmere island in the Canadian High Arctic. One evening, nine of them circled me. I photographed everything, recorded every single thing! I was alone with my tent on the ice field and they came to see me. I had been waiting for that very moment since years. Often, I only saw their footsteps… To approach animals, being on your own is the best pattern for they can only detect one single source of noise, the smell of one person. This kind of encounter is one of the great gifts of nature and I am trying to provoke these moments each time I am traveling. This is my luck. To immerse myself in nature, to experience things as an animal, to imagine what it would do the moment after. My solo trips are inner journeys.