Théo de Gueltzl uses photography to preserve nature and culture
Elements of tradition and the natural world can be found throughout his portfolio, from beautiful landscape photographs to fashion shoots that use plants and handcrafted objects.
- Daniel Milroy Maher
- 16 July 2021
Born and based in Paris, Théo de Gueltzl initially found his way into the art world through illustration. Studying fine art at Central St Martins in London, from which he graduated in 2014, Théo soon forged a long-term partnership with fashion brand Hermès. He worked with them on detailed drawings for their textile designs in a collaboration that would open a door not just to the world of illustration, but to fashion as well. The latter eventually became the focus of another passion for Théo. Since he was a child, he has been photographing the world around him – from his childhood friends, to local skaters in his home of Paris, to landscapes on his travels. After leaving CSM, he took a new direction and began immersing himself in fashion photography, going on to shoot campaigns for the likes of Moncler, Jacquemus, and his old friends at Hermès.
When we last spoke to Théo in 2017, he was living in Bogota following a road trip he had undertaken from Los Angeles, through Mexico, and into South America. There he established a studio and began planning his future trips. He had “the bug for travelling” and, four years later, he still does. His recent photographic work is full of far-flung landscapes and portraits of different communities. This kind of work, he says, is integral to his practice and is the very reason he continues to pick up his camera. “I think I have been very much driven towards telling the stories of communities from other parts of the world in the hope of helping to preserve the diversity of culture,” he explains. “In a time where we are all looking at the world through the same filtered window, and living on a planet that is always growing and changing, I like the idea that photographs can act as proof, carrying information about how people lived in a certain place at a certain time.”
His passion for natural landscapes and the communities who inhabit them, which is so evident in his portfolio, extends beyond aesthetic considerations. His images of dense jungles, small rivers, rocky coastlines, and vast canyons are more than just sights for sore eyes, they are tributes to the importance of earth’s many different ecosystems. Against a backdrop of greed and environmental destruction, Théo seeks to show the viewer the urgent need for preservation, the crucial task that lies ahead of us. “I try through my photographs to capture the holistic side of the natural world and hope that it will help people to look at the landscape as something rich when it's alive, and not as something to harvest or use for short-term benefit.”
Fine Lines, a recent project for Atmos, an online platform and magazine dedicated to “bridging the gap between climate and culture”, saw Théo photograph horizons from the Swiss Alps to the Mediterranean Sea. In the images, we witness the true diversity of the natural world, from harsh and wintery mountainscapes, to fast-flowing rivers, to soft and inviting shorelines, as Théo traces the journey to the ocean. These photos are accompanied by a poem he co-wrote with Ralph Cox that speaks of the “thin places” where we find ourselves between landscapes and “between two worlds”. In this project, as in many of his other projects, Théo shows us the potential of using photography to preserve nature and culture. The images are simple yet poetic, drawing on the inherent power of natural landscapes to encourage thought, reflection and, hopefully, action.
Théo de Gueltzl (Copyright © Théo de Gueltzl, 2021)
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.