Stéphane Hette

“I am thrilled to be haunted by beautiful things”

Interview with Stéphane Hette, naturalist photographer & image hunter.

immature female Erythromma lindenii on Caltha palustris

Hello Stéphane, thank you for agreeing to talk with us. We’re delighted to kick off our “Fanatalk” session with you, a fellow nature enthusiast.

You’re a naturalist photographer, and we’d encourage our readers to take a look at your work through a selection of images to illustrate this interview. The French TV France 5 gardening programme “Silence, ça pousse!” did a report on you to that you can watch if you click the link at the bottom of the article. You admitted: “I am thrilled to be haunted by beautiful things”, and we completely understand your point.

Fan. What has been your experience during this strange period from which we are just emerging on a personal and professional level?

S.H. On a personal level I was worried about the older people in my family, but it didn’t change my life a great deal. I live in the countryside, I see more animals than I do people, so it didn’t affect my work. I filled in the French government’s official permission slips so I could go to work, that was the only difference. Some of the images used for the interview were actually taken during lockdown. It was quieter around the ponds. I was able to make videos, which is something that I couldn’t do before because the noise pollution is usually too high. I missed riding my bike. It was hard to go two months without cycling!

Fan. We feel the same way! And it was tough to get back into the swing of things as well. Did you notice an upsurge in species during the lockdown period? 

S.H. Nature simply can’t recover completely in two months. But because there were fewer vehicles, it was easier to see foxes, hares, etc. The pond I usually go to wasn’t maintained, and that was cool! I am campaigning for us to prune later and better, to create one row rather than three… But no, I haven’t seen more species than usual. Perhaps because the weather was warmer, so we saw creatures earlier – especially insects – but it was more to do with the temperature rather than it being quieter.

Fan. We discovered your work through your collaboration with the entomologist François Lasserre in the amazing book:  « les vraies fées de la nature » (the real fairies of nature). When and how did you decide to start taking pictures of insects?

S.H. With insects it just happened by chance, about twenty years ago now. I saw a butterfly in my house, I slipped a sheet of paper behind it and I thought, “Hey, that’s pretty, I like that”. I was fascinated. But it was hard to recreate that happy coincidence. So I set aside one of the rules of nature photography, which is to never touch your subject. I went walking around with a butterfly net and a set of little boxes. I always carry little boxes with me when I go for a walk and I bring lots of creatures home with me. It just happened naturally, and I gradually became more and more intrigued by how all this life comes into being.

Fan. Yes, because you have been developing a very specific technique for your shots.

S.H. That’s right. I put a white background behind the subject, whether it’s a plant, an insect or a bird. If it’s a bird, I photograph it outdoors, of course. I adjust the screen size to fit the subject and use two groups of flashes: one group that exposes the subject and the other that exposes the background, so I can remove the shadows that are generated by the first group. It might seem a bit complex, but it’s just a two-curtain sync. It’s a simple process: there are no cables, no heat, no stress for the living thing, and all the equipment fits into a backpack. I’ve been walking around with this kit for over fifteen years. People often ask me if I ever get fed up of always taking photographs in the same way! But it’s really the subject that makes the photo great, not the technique.

Fan. And you don’t touch up your photos. The result is striking as much in its precision as in its poetry.  

Argynnis aglaja “hana”

Fan. You have a soft spot for butterflies, and your two blogs « artofbutterfly » and « la vie rêvée des papillons » (the dream life of butterflies) really show that. What do you love so much about these animals?

S.H. It’s their metamorphosis! Everyone loves butterflies, but no one likes caterpillars. I think it’s wonderful to have the ability to be several things at once. We’re all several things at once, we all have different aspects to our character. I’m a huge nature fan and I also love motorcycles! Ideally, I shouldn’t love Grand Prix motorbike racing so much! 

Fan. Humans are a constant paradox!

S.H. You just have to live with it. But I’m happiest behind a camera lens. I just love taking in all the beauty around me. I don’t create that poetry; it is already there. Perhaps I enhance it, when I do my job well.  

Cetonia aurata Rosa canina “habataku”

Fan. We recently published an article on the pioneers, thosenaturalist explorers who shared the richness of the world’s biodiversity through their high-quality observations and expert drawings. What legacy have they left for today’s naturalists?

S.H. First and foremost, knowledge. They enhanced beauty with knowledge. Nature isn’t just pretty. Beauty is a question of taste and while you could say that universal beauty does exist, it is not much use in isolation. These pioneers have served as inspiration for me, but not just the ones from Europe, I really like the prints made by the Asian, Chinese or Japanese explorers. Some Chinese painters have made incredible observations, they noticed that butterfly wings actually twist, something which was only proven scientifically very recently. I have lots of books on talented illustrators from the Far East.

Fan. Could you recommend any of them in particular? 

Papillons messagers éphémères

S.H. I have this little book called PAPILLONS (butterflies) published by the BNF, which doesn’t cost very much. It is a collection of some wonderful ancient works. I am fascinated by these painters whose culture is so different from ours, and who are also outstanding naturalists. The art of contemplation is deeply rooted in Asian philosophy, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Fan. Thank you Stéphane, we’ll add a reference for that book at the end of the article. Speaking of Asia, you sign all your works using a Japanese monogram. What does it mean?

S.H. I was adopted when I was two years old, and although he was a great parent, I didn’t really see eye to eye with my adoptive father. So my last name, “Hette”, didn’t mean very much to me. I did many years of research and it turns out that in Japanese, [E-TE] means “the hand & the image”, therefore the illustrator, the painter, the photographer. Before, I used to be an illustrator, I can still draw, and I actually sign my books with a drawing. This Japanese name suits me much better than the original in French. And it’s a nice way to round off my pictures. Without it, I feel that something is missing to confirm that the work is mine. My signature is the small rectangle on the left, and the square that goes with it means: “the description of nature”.

Lysandra bellargus “daiuchuu”

Fan. It’s discreet, elegant and understated, it really suits you. We’d like to thank you, Stéphane, for giving us a glimpse into your wonderful world. We’ll be keeping a close eye on your work as a nature ambassador. Good luck and see you soon!

Translated from French by Ruth Simpson

Pyronia bathseba “gitai”
Libellula quadrimaculatasuisaienogu
Cicada orni “higurashi”

If you’d like to learn more about Stéphane Hette, here are some links to his treasures

To see:
Émission « Silence, ça pousse ! » de France 5 (french)
Galerie Blin plus Blin Fine art copies numbered, certified & signed – limited edition

To follow:
French blogs
Art of Butterfly
La vie rêvée des papillons

Social medias

To read:


Chasseur d’images

Bedside books

  2. Zao Shao Ang Hua Ji
  3. Plantes et Fleurs Du Voyage. Dessins Naturalistes XVIIème-XIXème Siècles – Actes Sud
  4. Fabuleux Insectes, Paul Starosta – Léon Rogez – Jean-Pierre Vesco – Éditions du Chêne
  5. Les fleurs par les grands maîtres de l’estampe japonaise, Amélie Balcou – Éditions Hazan
  6. La quête du naturaliste, Benoît Fontaine – Éditions Transboréal

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Laurier Street collage hippocampe couleurs

Laurier Street

Animals are moving to the city.

Interview with Laurier Street, street artist.

Laurier Street en train de coller un poisson

Hello Laurier, thanks so much for agreeing to join us for the third edition of Fanatalk: a conversation between nature enthusiasts.
You are a street artist, and we absolutely love your collages of animals with their imaginative decorations. It makes a nice change from the hyper-realistic or fantasy-style animals that you see most of the time…

L.S. Yes, I add some personal touches by decorating them with swirls and patterns. People have displaced nature in recent years and my intention is to bring them back into the urban environment, but in a different way. That’s why I use the tagline “Animals are moving to the city.

Laurier Street collage hippocampe Mucem
Seahorse – Ink on paper / Mucem Marseille

Fan. What gave you the idea?

L.S. I have been drawing for years and I’m always scribbling swirls and patterns in my notebooks. I love to draw but I never thought my work would see the light of day. Last year I had a tour around Lisbon looking at the street art there with a specialist guide. I was struck by the way she presented the art works and I discovered the collage technique, which involves cutting out a drawing and pasting it outdoors on the street.

Where street art was concerned, I was more familiar with graffiti. I was struck by the idea of the collage because it was fairly similar to what I was already doing. I also found out that there were quite a few girls who were using this technique, and that it wasn’t necessarily a field only for men. I thought why don’t I try that too? I started with a small drawing of an octopus because it had a feeling of movement that I liked.

Fan. And that’s actually how we first found out about your work. It was in the Oberkampf district of Paris. That’s impressive. But you’re originally from the South of France aren’t you?

L.S. That’s right! Being from Marseille, I have a real soft spot for sea creatures, especially the ones that live in theMediterranean. So I pasted up one drawing and I thought it was fun, I liked it. Getting outside rather than being stuck alone at home with my drawing pad, and sticking up my works in the street art districts of Marseille meant that I could come into contact with people and I began trying my hand at slightly larger formats. That’s how it all started.

Fan. What has changed for you since you started filling the streets with your work? 

L.S. At the end of the summer in 2019 I pasted up my first animal. It’s quite refreshing to draw animals and talk to people passing by, children and adults alike… It makes them smile when they see a small fish on their way to work in the morning! 

I think that’s my new passion, it’s fulfilling and I meet lots of people. At first I was quite reluctant to paste my art works in broad daylight with my face uncovered, so I hid under my hood. I would go out pasting up my work in the evening; and then I realised that when I displayed my art spontaneously, on a Sunday afternoon for example, people would come and talk to me, ask me questions… As a result, I developed my collages: I talked about doing larger formats but I also brought in colour, which makes the animals even more alive. I then started having articles about me in the Marseille press, in the street art guide, it’s been really nice.

Laurier Street collage hippocampe couleurs
Seahorse – Watercolour and ink on paper

Fan. How was lockdown for you?

L.S. I took the opportunity to work on more drawings, which of course I couldn’t wait to get out and paste up! But it was above all a chance for me to sit down and do some research. For example I worked on adding a layer of watercolour to my drawings or started writing down all my ideas for the future. When the lockdown measures were eased, I was more than ready to bring out my work and share it in the street.

Fan. Speaking of watercolours, are you totally self-taught in your techniques or have you had drawing lessons?

L.S. Indeed, I am completely self-taught, I have never taken any lessons and these spiral techniques come straight out of my imagination, even my unconscious mind. I go into a kind of semi-hypnosis when I draw, it’s actually quite relaxing. Lately I have done my own testing with watercolours, and the results have sometimes been surprising! I studied town planning, and I have always loved city streets. That’s what really drove me outside and made me want to represent the city in a different way with my animals. 

Laurier Street collage Fleur
Flower – Ink on paper

Fan. You often add a caption to the photos of collages that you publish on your Instagram account. We really love the flower in particular. Why don’t you always include those captions on the walls, like the messages by Miss.Tic for example? 

L.S. My approach is different: I’m a big fan of French rap, which involves a very literary element.All the captions for my drawings come from the rappers I admire and always quote, and they allow me to combine my two passions. That flower is a special project: I have a Canadian friend who writes poems and as we both appreciate what the other creates, we decided to do a mini collaboration combining words and images to add another dimension to the drawing. 

Fan. Your choice of quotes suggests that you value freedom, breaking through what society expects of you…

L.S. Yes I probably need that, and it’s true, street art involves breaking the rules:pasting my work on walls is semi-illegal. But I don’t want to do anyone any harm, I just want to express myself on the street. I have always been an introvert, so I draw enormous strength from producing my drawings in complete freedom. Animals are also a symbol of the freedom to move, to swim, or to go wherever they like. We humans are more limited, we are contained within our society. I also really need space, to discover my city differently, as well as other cities where I would never have been able to go. The world is opening up to me and I really want to go out and paste my drawings wherever the mood takes me!

Fan. Have you ever had any problems with the police? 

L.S. Some drawings have been painted over by graffiti cleaners, which does make sense. But recently, even though it was during the official Grenoble Street Art festival, I was pasting a seahorse onto a wall with a member of the festival organisation team who is from Grenoble herself, and another woman threw several buckets of water from the fourth floor!

But in terms of official authorities, I choose places where my drawings cause as little disturbance as possible: I avoid new facades, certain types of stone… I only look for the positive side of street art and I respect the city.

Fan. That’s a smart way to look at it. Just like the world-famous artist Invader who leaves his mosaics all over big cities, but works very discreetly…

L.S. The world of street art is going through some really interesting changes. My art is created on canvases that are lesspermanent than mosaics or paint, even though some collages have managed to resist the elements for over a year. In the Panier district in Marseille for example, street art is tolerated and the works are all still there. But the temporary nature of my work also has its charm, that’s what street art is all about. 

Fan. Can we come back to the flower? Have you heard about the public initiative known as Sauvages de ma rue, which encourages people to take pictures and list the names of the plants that grow naturally around their homes? It reminds us of your slogan: “Animals are moving to the city”. 

L.S. This flower is the only one to date, but I do intend to do more exploring into the plant world. It has huge potential and I’m known as Laurier (bay leaf) so I am thinking about it. I might look at creating some climbing plants, Mediterranean plants to stay local… and for the colours too. There are definitely some wonderful ideas I’m yet to explore. It actually could be interesting to draw parallels between the wild plants that grow in an urban environment and drawings on the walls.

Fan. Your project struck a chord with us because it is similar to that of Fanatura, in the sense that we both are making a genuine commitment to nature, through an optimistic and respectful approach, with a little mystery, or even magnetism, but above all completely free of aggressiveness or violence.

L.S. Yes, it is more about questioning, of arousing curiosity rather than trying to make people come on board with an idea. Street art is right there in front of you, every day. Either you walk past it without seeing it, or you look at it without necessarily interpreting it properly. It really makes me happy when people tell me that it has moved them, that they have never seen anything so pretty on the street and that my drawings have helped change their minds about graffiti and street art in general.

Fan. Do you think it’s a generational issue?

L.S. No, I would say it’s intergenerational. One day I was pasting up a drawing and a couple came to tell me that their two children didn’t like going to school, but since I had pasted up my drawings, they had been happy to get up and see them every morning, and check if there were any new ones. It was an exciting change of scenery for them to see a lion or a fish on their way to school! I put a lot of emotion into my work and that kind of feedback is very welcome. 

I also took my grandmother with me when I pasted up some works in her neighbourhood. So every day on her way to the bakery she can walk past the bird she pasted up, and she can talk about it with her neighbours. Animals bring people together because they resonate with all generations. It is an open project, and it might not seem very “green” at first glance but it can be understood on several different levels, and if all it does is make children, parents or older smile as they pass, then I have achieved something great.

Fan. What effects have ancient illustrations by explorers had on your work?

L.S. I like doing research on the subjects I draw, and that might include research on drawings of the animal or simply information from a Wikipedia page. So I came across those types of illustrations quite naturally. They have very clear, very legible lines, and they helped me a lot as I learnt to understand the shapes of different animals. I use various sources to create my own drawings, but these plates really do have a lot of charm, they are interesting graphically and historically. They’re very inspiring. 

Fan. Nature is depicted in many new and different ways all the time. And we at Fanatura are big fans of that! Laurier, thank you very much for agreeing to be part of this Fanatalk, it was a great conversation between nature enthusiasts. We’ll keep an eye out for your works on the walls of our streets, and we’ll follow your work online. We love being surprised by your beautiful swirls and patterns. 

Translated from French by Ruth Simpson

If you’d like to learn more about Laurier Street, here are some links to her treasures ▾

Limited edition fish screen prints

Follow on:

Read about her in french:
La Marseillaise

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Florence Gendre, illustration ananas décoratif

Florence Gendre

«I was born with a pencil in my hand»

Interview with illustrator Florence Gendre.

Fleur d’ananas sauvage
Ananas cosmosus

Hello Florence, thanks so much for agreeing to join us for the second edition of “Fanatalk“, a conversation between nature enthusiasts.

You are a professional illustrator, and the quality of your work is incredibly impressive, especially your drawings of the natural world. Your talent for classical design is outstanding, as well as your mastery of stunningly beautiful evanescent colours. We’re real fans of your work and we’re excited about getting to know the artist herself…

Fan. Let’s start with an obvious question: how was lockdown for you?

F.G. Very good because I live my life in lockdown! I work from home, and all my work is done remotely. I receive my briefs by email and I send my files back to printers and my customers. It was actually harder for me when lockdown measures were lifted.

Fan. How did you become an illustrator?

F.G. I was born with a pencil in my hand. I have always spent my time drawing, ever since I was a tiny child. By the age of three I was sketching animals with fur and everyone in my family loves drawing. My grandmother went to the Beaux-Arts school of fine arts in 1920, my great-grandfather used to make model toys, my great-grandmother created very beautiful watercolours, and even people who joined our family through marriage loved drawing, so I was surrounded by art and it just rubbed off. Every Christmas and birthday, I would be given either boxes of coloured pencils or books about insects.

Fan. It’s pretty strange for a child to like insects.

F.G. To tell you the truth, I have always been fascinated by insects, reptiles and amphibians. My room was full of them, I used to breed Colorado beetles, ladybirds, lizards, all of that. My uncle and aunt had a house in Dombes and I spent hours at the local ponds finding out more about the creatures that lived there. I also like fish, especially exotic and deep-sea fish. 

Coléoptères / Scarabées

Fan. Why do you have such a soft spot for those species?

F.G. I don’t really like furry animals anymore, I’m not keen on dogs and I hate cats! I’m not interested in other animals either – I’m not bothered about birds – but if I’m anywhere near a pond I go mad for frogs and newts! I can’t get enough. If I find one, I run after it. And doing that has even got me into trouble… One day I was chasing a lizard, I wasn’t paying attention and when it got to a hornet’s nest it went in and I put my hand inside. I ended up in hospital. That’s just a little cautionary tale! I wasn’t put off though, I still love insects as much as ever, I have done ever since I was tiny.

Fan. What about other parts of the natural world?

F.G. Getting back to the subject of nature and my sources of inspiration, my grandmother had a subscription to Connaissance des Arts magazine since it was first published, as well as other magazines featuring the work of a single artist, such as Pierre Joseph Redouté. So we spent hours poring over those together, as well as all the Dutch paintings from the 17th century depicting transparent glass, hanging crustaceans, small lemons and so on. That was the really the theme running through my childhood. My grandmother would also take me to the Tête d’Or park in Lyon, she knew all the gardeners there and we would buy snails in the tropical greenhouse to clean the walls of her aquarium.

Coquillages, crustacés et étoiles de mer / Aquarelle sur papier
Shells, shellfish / Watercolour on paper

Fan. Were you a lonely child?

F.G. Yes fairly lonely. I did have two sisters actually, and a very caring family, but I always sat back and observed, and then I would take out my drawing boards and I always had drawing lessons. I based my entire life on drawing. As a teenager, I used to buy wooden bracelets. I would paint them with flowers and sell them at the homemade objects market in Lyon. My father made me a little machine that would spin the bracelet as I was painting it.

I studied art for my baccalaureate and when I passed, my father said to me: “Hey, I signed you up for a place at art school in Paris. But I’m not sure how it will turn out, because I’ve no idea how you’ll make a career out of it.” Then I found myself on a foundation course for Penninghen. I lived in what used to be a maid’s room on the Ile Saint-Louis. I had no idea how lucky I was because I didn’t know Paris very well. Then I took the entrance exam and was accepted at Arts-Déco. When I left there I started working in advertising.

Fan. How did you manage to stay focused on your love of the natural world while you were working in advertising?

F.G. At Arts-Déco, there was no commercial perspective, we didn’t even have portfolios. So I spent two months putting one together myself when I left: I had made several naturalist drawings depicting strawberries or fritillaria using coloured pencils, or pastels on acrylic backgrounds that I had created using a toothbrush. I had plenty of other designs that were great for advertising, but I’ve always had this love of the natural world, and my first client was the DIY magazine Système D. I did all their gardening illustrations for ten years, all the little things. The drawings weren’t always very artistic, but I had to make a living. 

Then I moved away from nature a bit, I designed car engines, jewellery, architecture, mainly for the luxury market. I love all that. My father had a collection of automated figures that he used to repair, so there were loads of tools around the house. We often helped him out and I became fascinated by mechanics. So I had several different interests and I did a lot of very different things but the seeds had already been planted, or they came from my family. Nothing happens by chance. Mechanics and architecture have always had a special role in my life as well, because when you love art, you also love architecture. When I look at what I do now, it’s an extension of many things that are tied together.

Fondation Cartier
Fondation Cartier

Fan. But looking at your most recent works, it would seem that the natural world has got the upper hand. Is that right? 

F.G. Six years ago I worked for Yves Rocher. I created illustrations for a short video about a plant that climbs upwards and transforms into other flowers. I couldn’t get the leaves right, the greens didn’t look good, I didn’t like it. So I found some tutorials and most of them were made by Agathe Haevermans, a scientific illustrator who teaches at the natural history museum in Paris. I ended up meeting and taking lessons with her. I was able to reconnect with my first love: observing plants and nature and it was a breath of fresh air! It opened the doors to a series of internships: in Lyon, Italy, the Pyrenees, the Amazon rainforest, and I met teachers in all these parts of the world. I don’t speak English but drawing is a universal language, and we always manage to communicate.

So I honed my skills in that area, first because I loved it so much, then I started posting on Instagram and it was a huge success! My customers discovered that type of art and started requesting illustrations. And it is true that it all happened at just the right time: with the increased popularity of organic, natural products, there was lots of demand for packaging art, especially from cosmetic or pharmaceutical brands which obviously contain plants. That all took off incredibly quickly without any real intent on my part.

Fan. And it’s not going anywhere any time soon, you’ve found a good niche! Can we segue into asking which artists inspire you the most and which ones have influenced your style?

F.G. There’s one painter who was a real revelation for me: Vladimir Veličković. He has actually just died. He drew people in motion from photos by Muybridge, with arrows and handwritten annotations. It goes back to the principle of botanical drawings which always include a caption, a description.

When I illustrated objects, I stuck to the same principle: I drew them face-on, at a three-quarter angle, with small sketches next to them and extra annotations. People in the advertising world loved that because it showed the object from all different angles, just like original sketches.

There’s also Domenico Gnoli, an Italian, who painted huge buttons, details from ties, and so on. I really love his work. I’ve drawn lots of inspiration from those artists. 

Fan. You were also inspired by the places you’ve visited…

F.G. That’s another thing I’ve inherited. My great-grandmother travelled to Egypt in 1898. She kept a diary that my mother cherished and bound, and we have all read it. She and my grandmother were both bookbinders, which is yet another manual profession! My father started out as a mountaineer. My mother went with him into the mountains and on many of his trips, which was unheard of at that time. They went to Peru to see Machu Pichu, then to the Amazon rainforest, they brought back parrot feathers and seashells for me. Then I was bitten by the travel bug!

Ten years ago I met a friend with whom I travel to learn more about nature. I love going backpacking, staying in small hotels or with local people, all over the planet. I have been to the Amazon rainforest and Machu Pichu. Travel is part of my life and is essential for my work. It allows me to discover the incredible nature of each country, especially around Asia and South America. 

Cactus Cereus peruvianus « spiralis » -Tillandsia Xerographica -Prèle Equisetum hyemale / Watercolour on paper

Fan. Let’s talk about Brazil …

F.G. It was a wonderful experience! In my drawing lessons I met Yvonne, who is half Brazilian and half Eastern European. Through her I was able to set off on a boat, following in the footsteps of the British botanist Margaret Mee. Gilberto, the boat’s captain, worked with her and knows a huge amount about the natural world.

Margaret Mee’s flowers are simply beautiful! She made forty trips to the region and spent her final years there. There are photos of her on all fours, doing her drawings on the floor or sitting on a tree trunk. Her works are extraordinarily large. If you are ever in London, I urge you to go and see them at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery, which is the temple for botanical artists from all over the world.

During our trip, we saw sloths, all kinds of birds, pink dolphins… Every morning we got off the boat in search of plants and in the afternoon we had drawing lessons with Dulce Nascimento, a well-known botanical artist from Brazil. I was living the dream! For ten days I was able to spend my time combining all my passions: drawing, observation, nature and the exoticism of travel.

Passiflora Caerulea / Watercolour on paper

Fan. And you’ve written all about that trip on your blog. It really made us want to find out more about Margaret Mee, and we’re going to be looking into her and her work for another article. Thank you, Florence, for this fascinating conversation. We’ll keep on following your work as an ambassador for nature. Good luck and see you soon!

Translated from French by Ruth Simpson

If you’d like to learn more about Florence Gendre, here are some links to her treasures ▾

To read:
French blog
Florence Gendre Illustrations

To follow:
Social Medias

Did you like this interview? Please subscribe to our newsletter to hear about our posts.