Florian Ledoux's arctic photos illustrate the effects of climate change
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Florian Ledoux's arctic photos illustrate the effects of climate change

About this photo: This image of people rowing through chunks of glacial ice was a semi-finalist in Red Bull's Illume competition.

Chances are, if you follow what's happening in the world of photography, you've already seen at least one image taken by French photographer Florian Ledoux. His work has won multiple awards, has been published in major magazines including National Geographic, and was recently on display at the Louvre Carrousel in Paris. Ledoux took a big risk, several years back, and left his 9-to-5 job to pursue photography full-time. His involvement with the Arctic Arts Project is what made his images stand out to an international audience.

I got a chance to interview Ledoux and discover what inspired him to start documenting the effects of climate change. Florian will be leading a guided photo tour through East Greenland next September. To learn more, contact him through his Facebook page.

What inspired you to get involved in the Arctic Arts Project?

I love the polar regions of the planet for their immense landscape and nature, which remains wild and almost untouched by human activity. You can sail, hike, and explore for several days or weeks without witnessing any sign of human presence. The scale of those landscapes where incredible species live is what draws me there. I was deeply touched while I took my first journey above the Arctic Circle when I was ten years old, with my parents, and this feeling is something that is still growing in intensity as I explore further.

As I got into photography, it came naturally that my work has to serve science and conservation. The Arctic Arts Project aims to work together with scientists and conservationists. The main idea is that they have the data and we have images to combine to better communicate to the public and leave a stronger impact. In March, for example, Jason Box and other researchers published a meta study gathering 35 years of data on climate change in Greenland — from temperature increases to sea ice loss, from shifts in the tundra to land ice loss.

Two months later, in May, Arctic Arts Project photographers went to Greenland to see exactly how those changes are playing out in real time. We captured images of early flora bloom, of dissolving sea ice, and the ice sheet melting. The Arctic Arts Project presented the findings from our May expedition to Greenland to the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature). Here is a video of the presentation, if you'd like a better look at what we found and some thoughts on the changes in Western Greenland and the world.

What message would you like to convey to people who don't believe climate change is real, based on your observations?

Nature is everything to me, it is the place where I feel connected to the rest of the world. Nature is the place where it all makes sense, the place where we find all the answer about life. It feels like it is where it all began! These are our origins. Not only do we come from nature, but we are part of this complex ecosystem – the mysterious equation called LIFE.

When I find myself in the remote Arctic, co-existing in harmony with the wildlife that calls it home, I know that this is where everything makes total sense. I know it because I feel it deep within myself. It is a deep vibe that consumes my body and soul in its entirety. At this moment, the urge to create an image that I would remember for the rest of my life with a strong message to protect it comes naturally to me.

What inspired you to incorporate a drone into your workflow?

The bird's eye perspective a drone provides has become a major part of my work. It started as I was always seeking a new way to show our planet. Drones are a revolution, allowing us to capture images that wouldn’t have been possible with and helicopter. Drones are also much more eco-friendly.

I believe in, and aspire to bring, a new perspective of capturing wildlife we already know well from traditional photography. I believe these images allow us to observe and document patterns from a new angle and approach, revealing the animals in their entirety as well as in a wider habitat and landscape, in a way not before possible. Using a drone has provided a new way of learning about the white Northern part of our planet. Drones need to be used with care and ethics, especially when it comes to documenting wildlife. The same principles apply for a normal wildlife photographer, no one should run toward the animal or disrupt their habitat.

Any final words of advice?

Air Iceland Connect changed my life. In June 2017, I got an opportunity to embark on a sailing expedition from Greenland to Nunavut. Many of us have this life where we are stuck in a 9-to-5 job with excuses not to do things we love. So I quit! I quit my stable life, quit my job, I quit holding myself back, and feeling trapped with not being who I would like to be. I followed my heart, my passion. I now have the most beautiful life I could imagine. In the end, all I want to say is this: Live and don’t let anybody tell you that it is not possible to follow your dreams.