Born in 1946, Yann Arthus-Bertrand has always had a passion for the animal world and the natural environment. In 1967, he settled in central France and became the director of a nature reserve.
At the age of 30, he travelled to Kenya with his wife with whom he carried out a three-year study on the behaviour of a family of lions in the Massaï Mara reserve. He quickly started using a camera as a visual aid to capture his observations and to enhance the written reports they compiled. While in Africa, he earned his money as a hot-air balloon pilot. It was then that he properly discovered the earth from above and his interest in viewing what he was studying from afar, which gave him the advantage of having an overall picture of an area and its resources. This is how he discovered his calling: to demonstrate the Earth’s beauty in pictures in order to raise awareness of the importance of preserving it. His first book, Lions, was born of this adventure – he likes to call these lions his “first photography teachers.”
Upon his return to France, he became a professional photographer specializing in live events, sports and nature.
In 1991 he founded Altitude, the world’s first aerial photography agency bringing together photographs from all over the world. In his own work, he turned his attention towards long-term projects, books and exhibitions, that examined the links between man and nature: The Earth from Above, Animals, Horses, and 365 Days to Think about our Planet among them.
In 2003, Yann Arthus-Bertrand launched the project Six Billion Others, which was exhibited in Paris’s Grand Palais in January and February 2009 and is now on tour. A team of film directors went to meet men and women all over the world and recorded on video the testimonies they received on general themes (such as life, death, love, hate etc). www.6billionothers.org
He then created the foundation GoodPlanet in 2005, a non-profit organization that aims to raise public awareness of environmental issues and to develop concrete solutions towards a more sustainable way of life - one that is more respectful of our planet and its inhabitants. www.goodplanet.org
In partnership with ADEME (the French Agency of the Environment and Energy Management) he developed Action Carbone, which offers institutions, companies and individuals the possibility to calculate, reduce and offset their greenhouse gas emissions by changing their own impact and by funding renewable energies, energy efficiency or reforestation projects, carried out by NGO’s in the global South.
This was followed by projects, such as Why Sustainable Development? in collaboration with the French ministries of Education and of Environment. This is an educational exhibition free to schools, which includes his aerial photographs accompanied by a series of texts that can be used for educational purposes by teachers.
In August 2008, Yann Arthus-Bertrand also initiated the project GoodPlanet Junior in collaboration with the French League of Education that offers vacation schemes to disadvantaged youngsters and teaches them about eco-citizenship whilst spending time in protected natural surroundings.
These projects have one common thread: Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s desire to act by suggesting concrete solutions to the public that will enable us to put the environment at the core of our consciences. It is due to this involvement that Yann Arthus-Bertrand is today considered more of an environmentalist and activist than a photographer.
Indeed, Yann Arthus-Bertrand was designated Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme on Earth Day (April 22nd, 2009) in recognition of his outstanding advocacy work for the environment. He was also named a UNEP 2009 Champion of the Earth in the category “Inspiration and Action.”
At the same time, he is also the author of Seen From Above, a documentary series of several one-and-ahalf hour episodes, shown on French public television. Interspersed with sequences filmed from the sky and interviews with experts or people on the ground, each episode of Seen From Above explores an environmental issue. It is currently being distributed for broadcast in 40 countries.
Encouraged by his television experiment, Yann Arthus-Bertrand undertook the production of a full-length feature film: HOME. It deals with the state of our planet and the challenges we will have to face if we do not protect it. The film, whose producer is the French filmmaker Luc Besson, was released on the 5th of June 2009 on television, on the Internet, on DVD and in cinemas simultaneously worldwide, almost entirely free of charge to the public. More than 400 million people have seen it since. www.homethemovie.org
Yann Arthus-Bertrand and his foundation attended the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December 2009 with a new film “6 Billion Others -Climate Voices,” and organized a film festival showing documentaries on climate and the environment at the Danish Film Institute.
In 2010, Yann Arthus-Bertrand and his foundation GoodPlanet launched 10:10 in France, a campaign to get individuals, companies and institutions to reduce their carbon footprints by 10% during 2010.
To launch the official UN declaration of year 2011 as the International Year of the Forest, Yann Arthus-Bertrand is producing a short-film, a book, an educational poster campaign and an exhibition on the theme of FORESTS in parallel with the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF), as well as participating as a distinguished member of the jury at the UN International Forest Film Festival. His second full-length feature film is currently in development.
After the success of HOME, Yann Arthus-Bertrand will launch into the making of his second feature film, HUMAN. HUMAN will echo these universal issues that unite us, and will be an invitation to discover what separates us and what bonds us together.
In autumn 2011, a new edition of his book "New York from the Air" was launched. Written with the author and cartographer John Tauranac, this book offers an exceptional portrait of the city.
For the World Water Forum in March 2012, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, in collaboration with Baptiste Rouget-Luchaire and Thierry Piantanida, is producing a film narrating the history of water and reminding us that reasoned management of water is a crucial challenge for our century. For Rio + 20, Yann is also working with the director Michael Pitiot on the film "Planet Ocean". This film aims to promote understanding of the importance of the oceans in the ecosystem and recognition of their strategic value, leading to the conclusion that international governance of the oceans is now a vital necessity.