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The photographer

Aviation photographer

We met with the photographer, Hervé de Brus, a few weeks before the 2018 Aviation calendar was released. 

1/ Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I was originally an advertising draughtsman. I attended an applied art school in Switzerland. Then I worked in advertising, in an agency until 1984/85 for various customers in interior decoration, real estate, aerospace and industry, among others.

2/ Where does your passion for aviation photography come from?

I decided to go into business on my own as a photographer in 1985. I very quickly specialized in aviation since I was already a pilot myself, since 1982. My first experience was a Jodel, which was a French single-engine civil airplane. I then joined the team of Régis Alajouanine, the President and Founder and the trainer of the Amicale de Voltige Aérienne, which has trained high-level aerobatic champions since 1980. Getting involved in aerial photography was thus a natural process because I was already familiar with the world of aviation from the inside and its various disciplines, such as racing and aerobatics.

3/ Among the photographers specialized in aerial photography, who influenced you?

I look at almost everything. It’s the atmosphere of aeronautics that inspires me. I love the competition, the mechanics. I feel right at home in this world of impassioned people.

4/ How did you become the photographer for the TOTAL Aviation calendar?

We began working together in the 1990s, shooting aerobatic planes. Total sponsored Pascale Alajouanine, who was twice European aerobatics champion, and was looking for a specialized photographer to shoot this type of airplane. Then for a few years, I covered the aerial Tour de France for young pilots, for which Total was a sponsor as part of its partnership with the FFA. My contact at Total wanted to use my photographs to make a calendar. I agreed in 1998 to make a large format model, which was more prestigious that what he was thinking about. It worked very well. The calendar lasted until the new 2018 edition.

5/ How do you organize your preparation for the shootings?

Each time is different. Most important, you have to find vintage airplanes. Finding old planes is not easy. There are many collectors in France and Europe but you sometimes have to go to America to find the rare gem. Then you have to convince the owner/pilot to play along. You also need the weather to cooperate – both for flying, obviously and for getting the best luminosity and the perfect shot.   

6/ What’s special about an aerial photography session?

As you can see, I work with rather short lenses to get a wide-angle effect that leaves little room for maneuvering. We're only a few meters from the plane. That’s why I rent planes on sight, often a Cessna, which is the world’s most popular civil utility aircraft. Then I work on the plane so I can easily open the window once I’m up in the air and shoot the pictures. The plane however is constantly moving, which often makes the experience adventurous. The initial briefing on the ground is especially important since it enables us to validate upstream the different angles. But a second briefing is often necessary to adjust the session, depending, for example, on the airplane’s features and the pilot’s skills. 

7/ What messages and/or emotions do you want your creations to share with the TOTAL Aviation audience?

The focus is on the extraordinary airplane and the original angle. My goal is to take pictures that we can only see from another airplane and not just a view of the plane's underside. I want to show an angle and an atmosphere that few people have the opportunity of seeing.

8/ Is there one photograph from the 2018 calendar that you're especially proud of?

I would say the photograph that illustrates the month of March. The CC 02, nicknamed the mini-rafale, is a plane that was entirely designed and built by its owner/engineer, Claude Chudzik. It’s a truly outstanding, non-standard model that I’m proud to have brought to the public's attention.   

Interview conducted by Nicolas Asfaux of bearideas for TOTAL Marketing Services