Through the lens
Through the lens of UN CERCLE
Breathtaking images inspired by nature’s great works of art.
UN CERCLE is a French creative firm specializing in photo, video and art direction. It was founded in 2015 by Pauline Barré et Mickael Samama, a duo driven by a shared love for cinema, music and the great outdoors. Particularly attuned to environmental and animal causes, their work explores the relationship between humans and nature.
What artwork or art form has had the greatest influence on your work?
PAULINE: I’m passionate about cinema; the film world has always fascinated me. I also have a keen appreciation of architecture and design, especially the process behind the work. But the artwork that has a boundless influence on me is the outdoors: the mountains, deserts, and oceans. Nature is an infinite source of inspiration.
MIKE: Music is my first passion, and I think it has a huge influence on my approach to photography and film, my second passion. I can get dozens of ideas just by listening to something that speaks to me.
What could be more majestic than a lion meeting your gaze as it crosses the savannah? The moment is so powerful that it seems to last for hours. When it comes to describing Namibia, there are far too many adjectives to list. How can you put Africa into words? You have to experience it yourself. The animals, landscapes, and people change you forever.
How do you approach the creative process as a pair?
Without thinking about it. Honestly, we have a hard time explaining our symbiosis. Everything about our creative process is very fluid. We’re lucky we share the same interests, vision, and convictions. That helps a lot.
We always work as a pair, whether that’s in the field or editing photos or video. You have to be solid to be together 24 hours a day, but it works very well for us.
You’ve taken photos all over the world. Is there a place that particularly stood out for you?
PAULINE: Namibia. It was my introduction to Africa, a continent I’d dreamed of from a very young age. Even before I went, I knew I would come back changed. I saw elephants, rhinos, cheetahs, and lions for the first time. I was shook. I learned so much about nature, about its fragility and strength, as well as the balance that we humans keep messing with.
MIKE: Iceland, especially the western fjords and the highlands. I’ve had a fondness for the country ever since I first set foot there.
Off the beaten path, from Askja to Landmannalaugar and Kerlingarfjöll. We’ve been to the land of fire and ice several times and are always just as fascinated. On a winter trip obstructed at every turn by blizzards we captured these images with their striking contrasts.
How does travel affect your photography, and vice versa?
The unpredictability of travel affects our photography. Even if you have a defined route, it’s impossible to predict what will happen, who you’ll meet, and, as a result, what photo opportunities there’ll be. Photography, on the other hand, is our passion and priority, so of course it colours everything. It pushes us to be more attentive to detail, especially to things you don’t notice at first glance. It means that we get up very early and go to bed very late. Light is probably the most important thing in our photos—and you often have to chase it!
What’s the main thing you try to capture in your photos?
Originality. It’s a matter of the shot, of course, but also a matter of light, shadow, or a movement or expression—and for animals, behaviour.
In Botswana, we met a guide named Ocean who often said that on a safari, it’s better to spend quality time with an animal than run after it everywhere. One morning, we spent more than two hours with a leopard, watching it do its thing and capturing rare moments.
We were there more than a year ago. Even just saying the word Patagonia evoked so much: wilderness, vast expanses, mountains… After spending a month in northern Chile along the Atacama Desert, we couldn’t imagine what awaited us in the South, via the mythic Carretera Austral. Everything was even more beautiful, even more grand.
Is there a particular cause or organization that’s close to your heart?
We love AfriCat. It’s a Namibian organization that strives to protect big cats threatened by habitat loss, poaching, and climate change. Their team does incredible work with its surrounding communities. Its philosophy is “conservation through education,” which for us is key to the future of wildlife.
What three Instagram accounts most inspire you?
@savinggorillas: The account of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, dedicated to protecting gorillas. Check it out for interesting information and videos.
@shaazjung: A wildlife photographer with exceptional shots.
@hugoclementk: A French journalist who highlights important causes.
Where to find UN CERCLE?
@uncercle / uncercle.com
UN CERCLE created the cover photo of the most recent issue of BESIDE magazine.
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