The animal photographer, originally from Menton, has created an awareness programme on the consequences of global warming.
Photography, serving the environment. Animal photographer and documentary filmmaker Olivier Anrigo has made this his credo. After several years' experience with international news agencies, such as AP and Reuters, the Menton artist had a real transition period in his career: "Getting a good photo wasn't enough for me any more," he explains. "I wanted to create other synergies, with other talents and skills in the field: the scientists." The aim was to warn of the consequences of the climate crisis, in particular on animals.
Warn about global warming
From the elephants of Kenya to the cheetahs of Namibia, to the Arctic and Antarctic poles, Olivier Anrigo observes, captures images and raises awareness. A vocation that was born six years into his career: "For me, the trigger was Spitzberg. For some time, that part of the Earth has been melting, warming six to seven times faster than any other place on the planet. The ice floe I had hoped to find was gone. I realised in the field that there really was less ice, and that it was having dramatic consequences on wildlife, such as polar bears, for example."
And as Olivier Anrigo knows, he is not the only person in Monaco to have a keen interest in ice melt. Prince Albert II and his Foundation are also carrying out preventive work, aware of the consequences of global warming on the polar regions. "I follow what Monaco is doing very closely. The Prince Albert II Foundation supports my work, and I think that what they are doing is very impressive, because they take an active part in certain projects. (…) Prince Albert I did a lot for the Arctic, and Prince Albert II is carrying on his work."
The photographer and the Foundation now work closely together. One of Olivier's photographs was even selected for the cover of the third issue of the Foundation's magazine, Impact. "I was quite moved, and pleased that they chose one of my pictures," says the photographer. "It depicts an Arctic with a rather harsh landscape. It shows both the authentic and fragile side of the Arctic."
And to go even further than his photographic work, Olivier Anrigo decided to create the Arktic Interactions programme in 2020. An awareness-raising programme, developed with scientists, which has led to a travelling photo exhibition and the publication of a book: Arktic Circle.
Capturing the beauty of nature
While the environmental dimension emerged gradually, the photography aspect was there from the beginning: "handed down from father to son in the family," says Olivier. "My father, Bernard, was a commercial photographer, he taught me everything. I was brought up with it. Photography is in my DNA."
Along with a thirst for travel and adventure. To date, Olivier Anrigo has visited some forty countries, across several continents. His favourite is Kenya, which he continues to visit regularly and where he organises safaris. He also has a very special memory of one of those trips: "a picture that moved me was of thousands of pink flamingos in the north of the country. There are so many pink flamingos in the photo that you can't even make them out individually. It's on the borderline between the abstract and reality: I found it magical."
A rare and precious moment that required an incredible amount of preparation work. Location spotting, sourcing suitable equipment, the right physical preparation, etc. The photographer must understand the terrain, adjust to it: "An animal photographer, in my view, must not disturb the wildlife. He must preserve this authenticity and put it into images. We have equipment that gets us close to the animal through very good lenses, while staying a good distance away. We blend into the landscape, I always feel like a guest, and tiny compared to nature. (…) The challenge is to understand where we are."
And sometimes magic happens, surpassing expectations. In Kenya, again: "One day, I set up 400 metres away from a family of elephants, with my guide, and then the elephants came towards us. We didn't move, I was sitting outside the vehicle, and I found myself with an mother elephant and her baby about six metres in front of me. It's incredibly rare, an unforgettable moment. These are meant to be wild elephants, but in this case they felt confident despite our presence."
Getting the new generation on board
But Olivier Anrigo believes this photographic work only has meaning if it is passed on. This is why Arktic Interactions has just set up an awareness programme, in schools, but also in other dedicated venues, such as the Louis Notari Library, on June 10. The first event was in March 2022, at the International University of Monaco.
"It's the new generation that's going to take over: we have to give them all the opportunities, all the data, to become aware", the photographer explains. " I am very pleasantly surprised because they really embrace the subject. (…) Education and awareness-raising is a priority for me, and it has to start at an early age."
Beauty of animals and landscapes, geography or careers in the visual arts and the environment: the programme adapts to the needs of primary school pupils up to university students. Having attended the Franciscan High School in his youth, it was an emotional moment for Olivier when he made one of his first presentations at the FANB. "I've come full circle".
At the same time, the photographer and his team are already preparing for future trips. On the schedule: polar dives in Spitzberg and Greenland from 2023. And in 2025, a special expedition with the Monaco Scientific Centre, to highlight and capture images of the work of scientists in Antarctica, with Emperor penguins.