Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s work extends beyond the realm of aerial photography. He is on a mission to educate and instill deep love for our magnificent planet, aiming to inspire collective action to safeguard humanity’s future. Arthus-Bertrand left home when he was only 17 with aspirations of being a film star, only to realize that acting was not his strong suit. As fate would have it, he met his first wife, who happened to own a wild park in France that they both managed for nearly a decade. It was during that phase that his relationship with nature deepened significantly. In a candid interview with the Guardian, he recounted the momentous decision to leave behind his life in France, including his first wife, and relocate to Kenya. There, he immersed himself in the Masai Mara National Reserve, living among local tribes and dedicating three years to capturing the life of a lion family. Concurrently, he earned a living by piloting hot-air balloons for tourists, and it was at this intersection of flying and photography that his two passions converged. His mission became crystal clear during his tenure as a photojournalist for National Geographic. The epiphany struck during an assignment that took him to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where he recognized his calling to capture the planet’s essence.
Arthus-Bertrand’s TED Talk titled “A wide-angle view of the fragile Earth” begins with him declaring, “When it comes to our planet, none of us wants to believe what we already know."
Through his evocative imagery, exemplified by his portrayal of the Oil sands, Yann Arthus-Bertrand illuminates the sombre reality of nearly three decades of human exploitation in Canada. This ongoing pursuit of profit from the extraction of Alberta’s oil sands exacts a heavy toll on the environment, resulting in the devastation of the Boreal forest, significant soil disruption, water contamination, and chemical residues. Through his imagery, he underscores the urgent need for action to combat the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal for Climate Change.
Another alarming photograph titled Disappearing Snow of Kilimanjaro, Arthus-Bertrand, captures the stark reality of a mountain renowned for its 11,000-year-old snow, which is vanishing at an alarming rate attributed to global warming, deforestation, and very low levels of precipitation. A UN report published in 2006 stated that a staggering 480 million people in Africa will soon find themselves living in regions plagued by water scarcity and severe water limitations. In addition to his photographic endeavors, he founded a non-profit organization, the GoodPlanet Foundation, that has implemented projects around five major themes (biodiversity, sustainable agriculture, clean energy, waste, and education) to preserve our planet, improve the quality of our lives, and fight against climate change.
organization, theEarth From Above is an ecological project conceived by Arthus-Bertrand and endorsed by the United Nations was conceived as a decade-long photographic portrayal of our planet, with sales surpassing over 4.7 million copies in 27 languages. His imagery captured a spectrum, from fields in Jodhpur to crystalline formations in Kenya, erosions by volcanoes in Madagascar, washing laundry in Abidjan, or tea cultivation in Argentina. In a TED biography introducing Yann Arthus-Bertrand, he is hailed as the world’s most renowned aerial photographer. His aerial photography serves as a compelling reminder of the ever-encroaching impact of humanity and its endeavors on our planet. With the launch of the Earth From Above book series, Arthus-Bertrand realized the need to further emphasize the call to action through an extensive public art exhibition. Premiering in Paris in 2000 to immense praise, the exhibition swiftly began a worldwide tour, making stops in various cities around the globe. By 2008, it had garnered the interest of more than 130 million visitors on every inhabited continent, highlighting the enormous scale of its influence and outreach.
His subsequent projects, like Human, are to give voice to people whose voices remain typically unheard—the marginalized, anonymous individuals who do not grace magazine covers but have profound, authentic stories that need to be shared. Living Together is an article that was published by the UN where Arthus-Bertrand asks us to grasp the statements made in the movie, reflect upon them, repeat them, respond to them, or even refute them. His vision with this movie was for the conversations to continue with action by inciting action and making it a better place for all of us to live together.
Yann Arthus-Bertrand has undeniably forged an identity far beyond that of an aerial photographer. He has emerged as a multifaceted individual, encompassing roles as a filmmaker, environmentalist, activist, and journalist. With his chosen medium, aerial photography, he has masterfully transformed it into an art form that serves as a catalyst for driving action in support of critical social goals