The shots of the most famous photographers always arouse interest, curiosity and wonder. Those of the National Geographic nature photographers have always had a special appeal to me. Yet there is someone who stands out in the elite of nature photography and to me Frans Lanting has always been an absolute and unattainable reference. Dutch by birth, Californian by adoption, Frans Lanting graduates in environmental economics (which says a lot indeed) in the Netherlands and then begins to work on assignment with National Geographic. He travels around the world several times to write unforgettable stories that go beyond mere photography. Lanting’s photos reflect his unique and poetic way of painting reality. It has been defined a scientist with the visual power of a painter and the soul of a poet. And that’s exactly what comes out from his shots.
The opportunity to meet one of my idols comes from the invitation, that a dear friend of mine sends me through Facebook, for a meeting organized by the Leica Store in Rome scheduled on April the 14th 2018. Initially I think of a photography meeting where the subject would have been the photos of Frans Lanting and despite the distance and the discomfort to reach the place (in the center of Rome exactly behind Piazza di Spagna), I subscribe myself and my eldest daughter Giulia. As the date approaches, I begin to realize that the meeting will not be about Lanting’s shots, but about Lanting himself! The shop is very small and the places are limited, I’m glad I subscribed early.
The meeting is scheduled at 4 pm, around 2 pm we are already in front of the Leica Store, waiting … At 3 pm we see Frans Lanting and his wife Chris Ekstrom entering the shop. In order to choose the seats we decide to enter and sit down very soon. At 4 pm the meeting begins, Lanting illustrates the vision behind his project “Life a journey through time” which, besides being a beautiful photographic book sum of a thirty-year career, has become a multimedia performance that ina a few days would have been held at the Rome’s Auditorium (that Giulia and I attended, but that’s another story…). After the presentation, the Lantings dedicated themselves to autographs, photos and questions in a very kind and nice way.
The question I asked to Lanting was if, from his enviable position as a photographer who has traveled the world several times and therefore had and still has the chance to return to places after years, if not decades, he noticed the impact of environmental change over those places he has photographed. His answer was that, the thing he notices the most when coming back to those places is the overpopulation of many areas, with consequent depletion of resources and natural phenomena that break down with more victims than in the past.
Finally I find the courage to ask him to sign not one, but two books of his pictures, autographs that Lanting signed with courtesy and a bit of amazement when I give him the oldest volume I own of his photographs. My overwhelming emotion is clearly evident in the shots from my friend Fabrizio.
A meeting that has been a real privilege and an honor. An moment, perhaps unique, that will always have a special place among my best memories.