I had the good fortune of meeting John in 1982. At the time, John worked as a European correspondent for National Geographic, while I had just returned from Kenya with a suitcase full of Kodachromes showing a family of lions I had studied for three years with my wife Anne. Together, she and I photographed them every day in order to understand their behavior, their social networks, their habits… and to write a thesis about them.
It was the lions who taught me my trade. I knew nothing about the history of photography when I arrived in Paris, besides a few animal photographers, but my goal, my ambition had always been to be published in National Geographic. And John provided tremendous support. He took the time to look through hundreds of contact sheets I brought with me, and very patiently and graciously found the right words to explain the different techniques and help me understand the needs of publishers at the time.
My lions never made it into National Geographic, but the magazine asked me to work for them, covering, together with John, the Tour de France. This was a dream assignment! Unfortunately, I didn’t fully understand what they were looking for. Whereas they wanted images of the cyclists, the bikes, the track…, I concentrated on the spectators, everyday life, villages passed along the way, on the popular side of France that I love so much. They were disappointed, and so was I. John and I have become friends for life.
With respect to John, I still feel the admiration of a novice for an experienced fellow photographer, for John is someone unusually kind and generous. Although he is one of the giants, he would always take time to share ideas with those just starting out. And believe me, a giant in photography, that’s very rare! In a word, I just love the man!