Rémi Chapeaublanc does what likely every photographer would love to be doing with their summer: he takes to his vintage motorized bike and whizzes around Europe and Asia, discovering new cultures and taking beautifully lit photos of the people he meets. Director Martin Zarka made a short video profiling the French portrait photographer’s escapade to Mongolia where he shot his latest series, “Gods & Beasts.”
This recalls of John Delaney‘s “Golden Eagle Nomads” project that we featured in “Three Photographers, Three Portable Studios” of last year’s July issue of Rangefinder, but Chapeaublanc takes a slightly more philosophical approach; here, he explores the “ambiguous hierarchy between men and animals,” he describes, where it seems cultural order is cast aside and all beings coexist (in fact, at the two-minute mark you do see a stunning shot of a Kazakh hunter sitting next to a big-winged bird as it lunches on prey—it might not be for the faint-of-stomach, but from a videographer’s perspective that was a pretty ace moment).
“In these lands, men and animals depend on ancestral ties that are both sacred and necessary,” writes Chapeaublanc of his series. “It is an archaic and visceral relationship in which equivocal domination games are put into questioning. Which are the gods, and which are the beasts? Or rather to whom are they the Gods and for whom are they Beasts?”
Chapeaublanc snaps his portraits in the Mongolian environs, which is fascinating because at first glance, you’d think he brought his subjects to a studio—black background and wonderful lighting—but regardless of the local, he has a keen ability of capturing serene, soulful, quiet portraits (even of a bird mid squawk) that is something to be admired by any portrait photographer.
He also made a teaser video in which he shows his return to Mongolia a year after taking the portraits to give the Kazakh people the prints of themselves and their animals, which for most were their only portraits.