Stuffed Tasmanian tiger in a museum

Thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus)
Also called the Tasmanian tiger, the species lived in Australia and New Guinea. The last specimen died in Hobart Zoo in 1936.
Photo taken at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris

L’arche Photographique

Itemise and inform

L’arche photographique

The project L’Arche photographique was introduced officially and for the first time in 2002 by Gilles Martin in the magazine Terre Sauvage. This great project goes beyond photography to touch on our consciences. The photographer’s ambition is to create, at the dawn of the third millennium, a “photographic planetary Noah’s ark; to photograph, before it’s too late, endangered wildlife; and to bear witness to those rare and threatened species on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of threatened species.

All animal species of L’Arche photographique were photographed by Gilles Martin in their natural habitat in their country of origin.

A long term mission : covering a hundred countries over the six continents

This broad initiative, which began in 2000, has no equivalent either in geographical spread or in the diversity of the species photographed. It is an in-depth piece of work, planned over decades and across all continents of the globe. Gilles Martin has set himself a goal: to use photography, with its capacity to amaze and inform, to sound the alarm. His images will comprise all the beauties of the living world, but they will go beyond aesthetic celebration, to show its fragility, and to appeal to human responsibility.

Photographing for Nature

Images, images everywhere. Television, internet, mobile phones, magazines, exhibitions, advertising… We may be charmed or sickened, but we are still caught in their grip, trapped by increasingly virtual worlds, just as wildlife is trapped in a world that is no longer fit for it. Might these images of the world have made us forget the world? And what state is this world in? Do we really know?

Gilles Martin has decided to bring us news of wildlife as it is – as it is disappearing, perhaps. Wildlife as an indicator for a term as hackneyed as it is misused: biodiversity.

To do this, he uses photography in its most noble guise: an image which reveals something profound. A testimony; an emotion. Gilles Martin has chosen to bear witness to something essential: the living world, and worlds that are dying. His battleground is Nature itself; and his commitment is to show us those creatures that are teetering on the verge of extinction.

They number in the hundreds, alas. And the list – from deserts to forests, mountains, and mangroves – resounds, in the end, like a curse in human ears. We can only reel as we add up what we have already destroyed. Do the dodo or the Tasmanian tiger – whose glass eyes we peer at, feeling vaguely guilty, in the depths of museum collections – herald legions of stuffed animals, consigned to the glass cases of museums, and to memory? But while humanity has a gift for stealing, it also has sudden flashes of insight. Humankind sometimes remembers that it is intelligent and, better, endowed with a conscience, a moral sense. Then, there is talk of biodiversity, protection of nature, ecology. Humankind acts. For today, we no longer have the excuse of not knowing. We can be clear-sighted with despair or with rage.

Gilles Martin has chosen to fight using the means at his disposal. Those of a photographer who will paint the portrait of threatened species: those that are on the brink of annihilation, those which still stand a small chance. They lie precisely in that narrow time frame within which we can still act: that is, starting now, over the next 10 years – and all together. Images that resemble a cry of alarm. Images of a countdown. The mission is urgent and colossal: it has taken Gilles Martin across six continents over years, like a soldiermonk of nature photography.

After 10 years of work, and 100 countries later, his photographs will stand like a manifesto. Then, we must look them in the face, for each of them will tell us the destiny of an animal which narrowly escaped death. And if it has disappeared for good, will we still have the courage to look these stuffed animals in their glass eye?